– By ALFRED HASSLER (1910-1991)
The first Christmas Eve, of course, was a very important event. The birthday of the Child called for the biggest celebration the heavenly hosts had ever had. Even the Carols, held in reserve for ages for some really special event, would be sung.
The choir was to be one of Heaven’s very best, with some exceptionally rich angelic tenors and basses brought in from the glee club to help out. All the stars had been rubbed with a special polish, and one brand new star added just for the occasion. The Carols were quite puffed up with pride and excitement, and they all promised solemnly to be on hand in plenty of time.
On the great night, everything went off fine. The stars shone as they had never shone before, the angel choir outdid itself in paeans of joy, and the Carols were a great success. There was only one little flaw, and hardly anyone even noticed it. One of the Carols didn’t get there in time.
In fact, it didn’t get there at all.
It was quite a sweet Carol, too, the angel singers told each other, a little sadly. It had been a pity not to have sung it.
The Carol was very penitent. It had stopped on the way, it explained vaguely. Something had got its attention, and it had stopped, and been late. Questioning by the Choirmaster produced little more. The Carol got vaguer and vaguer as the questions became sharper and sharper. Only one thing it seemed sure about.
It would never happen again, the Carol promised earnestly.
But it did.
Down through the ages, when the Carols would gather to celebrate the Child’s birthday, the Last Carol would always be late—too late. The choirs sang in the great cathedrals and churches, and carolers stood in the snow outside warm windows lit with candle or lamp or electric bulb, but the Last Carol never was on hand. In spite of all the solemn resolutions it made, each year it turned up with some vague excuse, or even none at all.
They were very patient with the Carol, but of course one can be patient only so long. All the protests, all the reasoning, seemed to have no results. The Carol would be ashamed and remorseful, and would promise to do better the next time, but each year the same thing would happen all over again. The Last Carol was quite incorrigible.
When nearly twenty long centuries had gone by with the Last Carol still not sung, they brought the situation to the Throne Room. There they explained, more in sorrow than in anger, about the Carol that was always late, and so had never helped to celebrate the Child’s birthday, and they asked what ought to be done with the Carol.
There was a long silence and then, at a sign, they left, and the Last Carol was summoned. The Last Carol was ashamed and frightened, and hung its head as it stood in the Throne Room, and explained, with no more vagueness, why it had always been late.
Each year there had been something different, it admitted sheepishly. Sometimes it had been a man in a dungeon, or people waiting to be cast in the arena, or burned at the stake. Sometimes it has been men at war, lonely and discouraged and longing for peace.
Often it has been men and women whose spirits had fallen low in the face of great obstacles, whose faith in love was almost extinguished, and who could not join in the rejoicing over the Child’s birthday because it had seemed to them the Child had been born in vain.
Always, explained the Carol simply, it had seemed important to stop with these for a while, and somehow it had always meant being late. But next year—began the Carol. But the Voice from Throne interrupted.
“Next year,” said the Voice, “you will do as you have done. Next year and,” said the Voice with mingled sweetness and sorrow, “for many years to come. For you are the Carol that must be voiceless until all men sing together in a mighty chorus that covers the earth. Only in the hearts of men who have seen the vision,” said the Voice, “can you honor the Child, until all men love each other as He loved them.”
“Then,” said the Carol wistfully, “must I be silent forever?”
“No so,” said the Voice, and the full choir of angels had never sounded so richly majestic. They flee from it, in fear and greed, but with their fear there is shame, and through their greed shines love. One day they will cast out their fear and let love lead them into the rich habitation I have prepared for them. Then,” said the Voice, “all men will join in singing the sweetest carol of all—the song of universal brotherhood.”
‘The Carol That Never Was Sung’ tells of a song that somehow never manages to show up in time to help celebrate the birth of ‘the child’: each year, it has met someone who was lost, imprisoned, at war, exiled, or orphaned– and has always stopped to bring the consolation of music, and is therefore too late. “But next year”, the carol promises…
We are almost in another ‘next year’ and those songs are more needed than ever. Please help us bring music, where war has raged, to comfort and connect.