Wonder Boi Writes

Christmas Song Blog: Day 1 – O Come Emmanuel

Things have been quiet on the Spangloblog lately, because, to be quite honest, I’ve been seriously depressed. Lots of tears, lots of fear, lots of anger, and so much exhaustion. The thought of blogging has not really appealed to me much, the thought of Christmas blogging even less so. I actually considered not doing my annual Christmas song blog this year. I just didn’t want the extra work, thought, and emotional output they tend to take.

That isn’t to say I didn’t want Christmas. I really want Christmas. I actually broke my cardinal rule and started listening to Christmas music BEFORE Thanksgiving this year. I basically started listening to nothing else right after the election. The lights went up on my house in November. I’m planning a holiday open house and invited like 80 people. I’ve been doing my best to use the power of Christmas and all its trappings to help me get through the horror of our current political realities.

That led me to think maybe I would do the song blog, except no real blog. Just the songs. No commentary. No thought. No emotional work. You’re all smart, you’d get the point. Right?

But what point?

That the world needs love right now? Duh.

That Christmas makes people happy? Sure.

That people need to find a way to be happy even when we are scared? That too.

A little bit of musical distraction is totally warranted. I don’t think anyone could really fault me for that. Except I kind of would.

Not because using Christmas that way is inherently wrong. I don’t think it is. But I do think it’s ineffective. Or at least less effective than it could be. Distractions are temporary and surface level. A band-aid on a bullet hole. As I said before, I have been listening to Christmas music for weeks, and still I am a walking ball of fear and frayed nerves. Clearly, using Christmas as a diversion is not enough.

And the thing is, I know that. Christmas isn’t songs and lights and food. Christmas isn’t a diversion or distraction. Christmas isn’t some mood-altering mind trick.

Christmas is a life-altering experience.

You can’t do Christmas halfway. Well, you can. Lots of people do, but you can’t expect it to change anything unless you’re willing to let it change you.

In order for that to happen, we have to learn to see Christmas as more than the happy little clean-and-bright story advertisers and even some churches paint it as.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating that a true reading of the Christmas story reveals a harrowing tale of poverty-stricken people living under the foreign occupation of a brutally oppressive regime. Their families and friends turn against them after an unplanned pregnancy. They travel with virtually nothing through a wasteland of rugged terrain to get to a place where they are not really wanted. After being turned away by homes and businesses, they’re forced to take shelter with animals, in dark, unsanitary condition where they face a medical trauma that routinely kills woman, without trained help or even the support of loved ones. And then, when they survived that, the weight of the law fell on them, and one of the most powerful leaders in the world went on a killing spree, slaughtering innocents in order to snuff out every future hope of salvation. They were only able to escape the vast bloodshed by fleeing their homeland under the cover of night to live as refugees in a foreign nation.

You can’t sort through that narrative and choose to polish a few pieces. If you do, you lose the power of the whole. Christmas is not a happy escape from the word around us. It is not a diversion from the troubles of the day. Christmas isn’t an instruction manual for fixing anything specific on a global scale or even a local one. No governments were over thrown. No oppressors vanquished. No redistribution of wealth. Christmas is just a story of God looking down on this mess we have created for ourselves and being so moved by compassion He decided to join us.

Not fix everything for us. Not solve all our problems. Join us

Emmanuel. God with us.

God incarnate, plunked, of his own free will, right in the middle of the despair, the squalor, the violence. God with us then, now, always, in the worst of human conditions. God offered living, touchable, tangible proof that we did not have to face the pain and the anguish and desolation alone. At a time when human beings would have run, God refused to turn away. God did the opposite. God got closer.

That’s the transformative power of Christmas. It’s not replacing desperation with joy or fear for hope, or love for hate. It’s about knowing that all of these things can exist simultaneously. Christmas is not about getting away from things that challenge or frighten us. Christmas is about standing in the middle of your nightmare and knowing that God is there, too.

That might not be the kind of Christmas I want right now, but it is the one I need.

If you do, too, I welcome fellow travelers as I embrace this wonderful, terrifying, and life-altering journey in all its fullness over the next 25 days. May God’s presence bless us all along the rough and winding way.


December 1, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Hi Rachel, so pleased that you are doing the song blog again, even in these difficult times. Never fear that your words are needed and appreciated. We are all forced into a scary resistance movement against negativity, bigotry, xenophobia, and homophobia, and you — in you own way, and in your own words — are an inspiration to us as we proceed. Speak your truth, and know that you — and all of us — will weather our depressions and come through stronger still. Thank you for all you do.

    Comment by Diane Nixon | December 1, 2016 | Reply

  2. What a wonderful description of the reality of His birth. Jude and I sat here in awe. The whole post was what I needed right now. Thank you for writing the blog. Beautiful.

    Comment by fergus62 | December 1, 2016 | Reply

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