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Sing, Choirs of Angels

How a secular education in Christmas carols prepared the way for faith.

Sr. Carino Hodder
Sr. Carino Hodder
Sister Carino Hodder is a Dominican Sister of St Joseph based in Hampshire, England. She made her First Profession in September 2019.

O, little town of Bethlehem,” said my devoutly Sikh taxi driver. “How still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and . . .” (I chimed in from the back seat, providing the elusive word) – “dreamless – thank you – sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet, in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. That was my favorite one when I was a child.”

“You have a good memory,” I said.

“Oh yes, I still know the words to all the Christmas carols. My children think it’s hilarious. But we sang them every year at school, you see.”

I certainly did see. It was Advent of 2019 and we were idling in traffic in the middle of Birmingham, traveling out of the city from the rail station. Seeing I was a religious sister, my driver had wanted to tell me all about his memories of the Christmas carols he had learned at primary school. Within a couple of minutes we were singing along together – after “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we moved on to “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and “Silent Night” – while waiting for the lights to change. A disinterested observer may have found it a strange sight: a woman in a habit and a man in a turban, in a highly secular country, singing Christmas carols. But I was not at all surprised. After all, the childhood memories of my taxi driver – memories of being a non-Christian child immersed in the music of a faith that was not my own, and shaped by it in ways beyond my understanding – were my childhood memories too.

Continue reading at Plough Quarterly.