25 Songs of Christmas: Day 1- Where Are You Christmas?
It’s time for my annual holiday song blog series. This is one of my favorite things I get to do all year long. I look forward to this project so much I actually had the first song picked out for this year by the end of last year, but upon realizing it was almost time to start posting the blogs, my first thought was, “oh crap, I’d better add that to my to do list.”
You see, I make lists. Every day there’s a list (as those of you on my facebook page know). This time of year there are chore lists, shopping lists, travel list, baking lists, and holiday song blog lists. While they help me stay organized, quite frankly it’s getting to be a bit much. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. There are so many things I can’t control. I cannot force my relatives to send me their Christmas lists. I cannot force the children in my Sunday school to show up for Christmas play rehearsal. I cannot prevent every organization in town from planning their holiday events at the same time on the same day. Does that stop me from being frustrated about any of those things? Of course not. I’ve even felt myself getting angry about Thanksgiving coming so late this year. As if the calendar itself tried to screw me by cutting a weekend out of my work schedule.
The last two nights I’ve had Christmas nightmares. Seriously, I woke up sweating from dreams about the happiest season of all. Then, this morning as I rolled over in bed, slowing awaking, a solution came to mind. In that haze between sleep and awareness, I decided to just skip church all together so I would have an extra morning to shop and put up Christmas lights. That was it, my answer, just cut church out of Christmas.
Does anyone else hear the screeching sound of brakes being slammed? Yeah, full stop. I hope I don’t have to tell any of you how upsetting that logic is to me. The thought of cutting out one part of this holiday that holds peace and joy and meaning without asking for anything in return to spend more time on the parts of Christmas that drain and overwhelm me is the opposite of how I should handle my stress. So I threw on a pair of wrinkled khakis and made it to church this morning, but to be honest, my reasons for being there were still largely intellectual or at best hopeful. I hoped to find something to settle me down, to soothe me, to connect me to something better.
I didn’t want to ask for too much, but I really needed the pastor to bring the “Peace on Earth, Good Will To All,” but when I got there, I realized I had nursery duty. I would not sing hymns, I would not hear the sermon, I would not sit quietly holding my wife’s hand. My sanctuary would not be…well, a sanctuary.
I’m not going to lie. At that point I relapsed into my holiday panic. If I couldn’t be in the service, maybe I could use that time to work on my to-do list. But I had only one child in the nursery, a little boy who’d just turned one. He was into everything, and with no one to play with, he required my full attention. Resigning myself to an hour of hyper vigilance, I took up residence on the floor. We rolled a ball a bit before he yawned. We built block towers as he rubbed his eyes. Then after we knocked down the towers, he crawled onto my lap and fell asleep with his head against my chest.
I could have laid him down and gotten some rest myself. I could have sneaked in some work time. I could have opened the nursery door and listened to the sermon. Instead, I set the worry and the stress and the frustration aside and listened to him breathe. This wasn’t the type of Christmas preparation I’d hoped to do today. I didn’t get any work done. I got a great lesson on faith. There was no magical revelation. At the end of the service I had nothing tangible to show. All I know is that for one hour amid the nose and the stress and the rushing, I sat quietly, rocking a sleeping child. For that hour, I felt peace and joy and warmth.
Church ended, the child awoke, meetings resumed, and house chores called. I can’t ignore everything else that comes with Christmas, and honestly I wouldn’t want to, but for that brief respite, I heard the still, small voice that calls to each of us. I don’t know, maybe that’s what Christmas means to me now, a sliver of something more amid my too-full life. My prayer for myself and for each of you is that somewhere in the hustle and bustle of this season we all remember to take a few minutes even at unexpected times and in unexpected places to connect with the Divine, however it may appear.
With that in mind for the next 25 days, I will post one song a day on this blog in the hopes that no matter what else is happening in your life, you can find something here to make you smile or sing along or just give a few minutes to breathe. It’s not as special as a sleeping baby, but I do hope these song provide you with a bit of peace and joy this holiday season.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
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