Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Songs

I admit that I am not one to find deep meaning in Christmas that easily. I have friends that seem to be able to draw such deep, personal meaning from the holidays and that is something I struggle with. It is probably because before I "got saved" I didn't really go to a church that celebrated Christmas-or if they did, my memories of it are not very vivid. In addition, my mother's celebration of the holiday, while in grade school and younger was a valiant effort, as we grew older it became obviously, painfully apparent that she didn't like to celebrate Christmas and if we didn't bug her about it, she would be happy to not have anything to do with the decorating, gift giving, and anything else that added extra work and burden to her life. And going back to grade school days, our extent of celebrating the holiday was to put up a tree-usually not even together as a family-and to open gifts on Christmas day. We did not make Christmas cookies, we did not address cards together, we did not listen to Christmas music, we did not do Christmas crafts. This was my normal and I accepted it for what it was, only realizing as I got older that there were quite a few American traditions we didn't take part in.

After I "got saved" every church I ever attended (and in the past 14 years I attended 6-7 on a regular basis) did not celebrate Christmas with traditional church Advent. Meaning, there might have been Christmas decorations and carols sung every Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas and a Christmas type sermon closer to the day but that was it. Now that we are attending our new church, we are celebrating advent. My guess (with my limited exposure to true liturgical advent services) is our service is very loose on advent tradition, but nonetheless there is focus for half the service on Christ and His coming. The lights are dimmed, we sit when we sing songs, focused on the desire to have Christ come into the world. We read Scriptures about His coming, spending time in silence meditating on what they mean to us. And every week we are given readings to do personally to help us focus on the coming Christ and what it means that the Word was made Flesh. I am enjoying it all thoroughly, and still, I struggle to find deep meaning in it. Perhaps as I continue in this type of tradition over the next season (or rest) of my life, I will be able to draw deeper from it.

Two years ago, I found incredible meaning in this traditional Christmas song. This year, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" has been a song that has caught my attention. Whenever I hear it sung, or sing it myself, I stop and listen and drink in the words. I'm not sure why it has such deep meaning for me this year. This year has been one of unbelievable blessing. If I am honest, it has probably been the most blessed year of my 28. I have been blessed in my family with the addition of Jamie, Anne growing older and being able to connect more with her, and daily by my husband-who remains my best friend, my partner, my confidant and (if I believed in such a thing) my soul mate. I have been deeply blessed by our new church, which has helped to bring me into a richer and more full faith life. I feel like, as another song says:

"You could take a cup and fill it up
And just keep on filling till it all comes spilling down the sides
That's what You do in my life "

So, I'm not sure why this Christmas carol has such meaning for me this year, but it does. And so I will think on it and let it sink into my heart and enjoy what it brings to me this Advent Season as I wait for Christ to come.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy


Nicole said...

I loooove the Barenaked Ladies/Sarah Mclaughlan version of that song. Love it love it love it.

Nicole said...

Shoot, why didn't it pop up as a link? I also spelled her name wrong: apparently it's McLachlan. If you search it on youtube, it'll pop up-it's not a video, but audio only. Unless you want a live version.

jogomu said...

April, you should get Scot McKnight's "Praying with the Church" which is about prayer book traditions in Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican usage... and also Phyllis Tickle's work. Did I send you a copy already?

If you celebrate the "hours" during Advent (or Lent, or any liturgical season) there will be plenty of food for meditation dished up.... esp. if you get the multi-volume with the "Office of Readings." I personally like the one-volume Christian Prayer (everything but the Office of Readings) and then use this link for the readings if I'm going to do it that day:

Universalis Readings

It isn't easy to learn how to use the book, so we can get together and go over it if you are interested in giving it a try.

When the time had come
for him to be born,
he went forth like the bridegroom
from his bridal chamber,
embracing his bride,
holding her in his arms,
whom the gracious Mother
laid in a manger
among some animals
that were there at that time.
Men sang songs
and angels melodies
celebrating the marriage
of Two such as these.
But God there in the manger
cried and moaned;
and these tears were jewels
the bride brought to the wedding.
The Mother gazed in sheer wonder
on such an exchange:
in God, man's weeping,
and in man, gladness,
to the one and the other
things usually so strange.

(St John of the Cross, ``The Birth'', from ``Romance on the Gospel text 'In principio erat Verbum,' regarding the Blessed Trinity.'')