Christmas is my favorite time of year, especially now that I have small children. Lillian shares my excitement of getting a Christmas tree and decorating it, as well as putting up the lights outside. When she was a baby, I toyed with the idea of giving her the real scoop on Santa Clause. It never worked, my influence is too small, I guess. That aside, we really get into Christmas in the Schroeder household. We pull out the Christmas records and cd's (we even got Lilly a Taylor Swift Christmas cd for her birthday) and listen to them whenever possible. Christmas music is a lot like Christmas memories, every year I remember the good old ones, add new ones, try to forget the bad ones (even though you can't, insert the most annoying Christmas song you can think of) and let the unmemorable ones fade into oblivion.
My favorite Christmas music tends to lean towards the melancholy. I remember all those minor chord Advent songs sitting in church on Wednesday nights. They always sounded so sad and with every new candlelit on the Advent wreath seemed like another invitation to joy, but not so soon. There would be a few more weeks of reminders of how dark the world is before that big white candle is lit. I used to love looking through the hymnal, counting down the songs until the Christmas ones began. Than we would get to Joy to the World or Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
Many of the the great secular Christmas songs have a hint of this melancholy. Everybody always looks at "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as this nice sweet little song about having a nice Christmas, but at the heart of it is an intense sadness. "Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow, until then we'll have to muddle through somehow...next YEAR all our troubles will be miles away."
Thirty six years on, I think I finally understand this sadness that comes with Christmas. We're all in search of a perfection that we never achieve. We buy new cars that lose their value as soon as we drive it off the lot. We strive to keep the house clean and it's getting dirty the second we're done. We work to buy our children toys they are bored with the same day they get it. As the old John Prine song goes, "all the snow has turned to water, Christmas days have come & gone, broken toys and faded colors are all that's left to linger on".
We know all the right answers when it comes to Christmas, and we teach them to our children, only to forget them ourselves minutes after we teach them. We search for perfection with Christmas; we try to make memories to last a lifetime, only to be left with that same empty feeling that our idea of perfection can't be reached.
Which brings us to why we need Christmas in the first place. Jesus came to save us from our frailties, our guilt, our greed, our anger, our shame, our selfishness, you can feel free to pick yours. Christmas came as a light in a dark place, our perfection in an imperfect world. It brings with it a tension between our sadness our sin has created and the joy of knowing the one who came to save us from our sin. My hope for you this Christmas is that you remember all that needs to be remembered, forget all that needs to be forgotten, and most of all, that joy wins.
Five Favorite Songs of the Day
Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming-Sufjan Stevens
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas-Bob Dylan
Of the Father's Love Begotten-Concordia College Fort Wayne
Good Christian, Men Rejoice-Kings Choir Cambridge
Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates-Sufjan Stevens
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