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. I cajoled my piano teacher Mrs. Wertz into letting me practice Christmas carols year round. And I have a vague memory of actually gathering a sibling and maybe my grandmother (who would humor this child) “round the spinet” for a carol 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 first 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 from Second Isaiah (which inspired the Advent hymn) make a good measure of the the music we play – to make our souls merry – this holiday season. As does this verse from Psalm 25.
All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness. Ps 25:9
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 partings;
hard knocks and soft landings;
rejection and reception;
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 dozen years 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 36 and Colleen 34.)
And each album has a different theme – that captures the mood and the meaning of that particular Christmas:
Party hardy Christmas;
Down Home Country Christmas;
Christmas Around the World;
and in a bluer season:
The Smooth Sounds of Christmas.
And this being the twelfth season, the 12 Days of Christmas, of course, a retrospective.
The tracks they choose are outlandish, surprising, delightful, poignant, moody, and sad.
Each is a cacophony of voices, crying out in the wilderness – a way to tune into the Greatest Story Ever Told. A way to tune into the crazy Second Coming of God.
(Though I am pretty sure they would not describe it that way! Ha!)
Maybe you could make your own?
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!
And besides the car or the shower, where else can you make a joyful Christmas noise?
This Saturday, December 8th, Emmanuel on Russell Road is THE place to be!
A grownup evening of seasonal cocktails and brews, “mocktail” alternatives; hot cocoa & cider.
Carols “round the spinet” with Clair Elser.
Serenaded by “Amici” (Ryan and friends!)
Wear your CRAZIEST Christmas sweater! (There will be prizes!)
Bring warm NEW winter things (hats, gloves, scarves, socks – all sizes) for Carpenter’s Shelter!
So make a joyful and genuine Christmas Carol noise!
And let the whole world know (without a doubt) that all the paths of Christ to come are love, faithfulness and peace.