While the church is a bit fussy about music in Advent, I confess to being obsessed with the “mall muzak” of the holiday season.
Ever since I was a little kid, Jingle Bells has brought me joy; O Come, All Ye Faithful has given me comfort. The chaos of my childhood home not withstanding.
I loved to sing — though Sister Inez Patricia kicked me out of the Glee Club for belting out Joy to the World off key. And with my piano teacher, Mrs. Wertz, I cajoled her into letting me work on Christmas carols the year round. And I have a vague memory of actually gathering a sibling and likely my grandmother (who would humor this child) “round the spinet” a time or two.
No matter how dark my December days, these little embers of memory never fail to warm my Advent soul.
But not to over do it! Psychologists warn us that overdosing on Christmas music is not good for your mental health. Especially, if you start tuning in the first of November, when Target has put up all of their Christmas stuff – post Halloween. The Twelve Days of Christmas will definitely drive you crazy, when you still have fifty five days to go!
But this second Sunday of Advent, I think we are safe. “All things in moderation,” my dad used to say.
Comfort, comfort ye my people, speak ye peace thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness mourning ‘neath their sorrows’ load;
Speak ye peace to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover, and her warfare now is over.
Hark, the voice of one that crieth in the desert far and near,
calling us to new repentance, since the kingdom now is here.
These words of Second Isaiah encapsulated in Advent hymn #67, from the ’82 Hymnal, can make a good measure of the the music we play – to make our souls merry – this holiday season. As do the words of the psalmist, as well:
I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his people. Ps 85:8
Our lives in this world – no matter how charmed our circumstances – are but a walk in the wilderness. A wonderful walk. A dazzling and challenging walk.
And maybe this year has been wilder or weirder or more bewildering or even more wondrous than those past. With…
newborn babies and loved ones dying;
terrible twos and aging parents;
lost jobs and new occupations;
weddings and divorces;
retreat and renewal;
reunion and return;
delight and despair;
whether any of it be private, personal, or shared.
Having a Holly, Jolly (and hopeful) Christmas is a complicated thing.
For a decade running now, two of my children, Zach and Colleen have produced an annual Christmas album. It is not your usual holiday fare. It started out just silly and fun but has turned into a sibling bonding ritual they return to each year. (Zach now being 35 and Colleen 33.)
And each album has a different theme – that captures the mood and the meaning of this Christmas:
Party hardy Christmas;
Down Home Country Christmas;
Christmas All Around the World;
and in a bluer season:
The Smooth Sounds of Christmas.
The tracks they choose are outlandish, surprising, delightful, poignant, moody, and sad.
Each of them is a cacophony of voices, crying out in the wilderness – a way to tune into Jesus in the manger once again. A way to tune into the crazy Second Coming of God.
(Though I am pretty sure they would not describe it that way! Ha!)
So what have you got on that iPod of yours? What have you got on Spotify?
As a spiritual exercise, why not put together your own “Messiah” playlist: whether it be Handel, Bing Crosby, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Prince, the Anonymous Four, Gregorian chant, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Instead of a Christmas letter, you can share your playlists and attach it to an e-Christmas card.
My own which I, so creatively labeled: Christmas, Christmas, Christmas 🙂 shuffles over 200 carols in the privacy of my car (or my living room.) Where I can sing along – lustily and with abandon – which I recommend most highly!
So make a joyful and genuine Christmas Carol noise!
Lift up your voice with strength…
Lift it up and do not fear.
For here comes our God.