“O HOLY NIGHT” IN THE BATHTUB
IT’S HERE THEN IT’S GONE
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the music of Christmas is everywhere. Sirius/XM satellite radio, for example, has multiple channels offering all sorts of Christmas music. You can hear “O Holy Night” sung by Faith Hill on the Country Channel or Bing Crosby on another channel. Choose the classical channel and you can hear the song played by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. Switch over to the jazz channel and listen as George Winston or Dave Brubeck interpret that beautiful song.
Christmas music is everywhere by the time we get to the 24th and 25th. The day or two before Christmas, I was standing in a grocery store as half of Bloomington frantically pushed carts up and down aisles. The music in the store invited us to welcome and worship the Infant King: “O come, let us adore Him.” Few of us seemed to notice the call to adoration because we were focused on shopping and locating the quickest checkout lane.
As shocking as it is how much Christmas music there is, leading up to December 25th, it is equally shocking how quickly the Christmas music disappears when Christmas Day passes.
It’s as if someone has “flipped a switch.”
The music is here and then the music is gone.
We go back to “normal.”
REFUSING TO GO BACK TO NORMAL
Maybe it is simply a part of my rebellious nature (I’ve been accused of being a trouble-maker by more than a few folks), but I keep playing the music of Christmas in the weeks following the December 25th.
Maybe it isn’t just my rebellious nature: maybe it is the sheer beauty of the music and the glorious story of the God who loves, who shows up, and who shatters the deepest darkness with the light of divine love.
Maybe it is a small way of declaring that Christmas is normal. Maybe it is a small way of announcing that a world made flat by despair, fear, division, injustice and violence isn’t normal but because of the Incarnation the true normal is hope, healing, peace, joy, justice and love. The birth of Jesus changes everything forever, and it isn’t a one-day thing.
Earlier today I was playing the stunning Christmas music sung by the San Francisco acapella group, Chanticleer, and right now highlights from Handel’s “Messiah” are soaring through my office door and down the hall.
In a few minutes, I may play the stunning “A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.” Some say it is one of the great rock and roll records, with doo-wop Christmas “anthems” by singers like Darlene Love, The Ronettes, and The Crystals. Or maybe I’ll listen to Sarah McLachlan’s stunning version of “In the Bleak Midwinter” on her incomparable CD “Wintersong.”
I like to play Christmas music through the day of Epiphany (January 6th). The world is too full of the noise of fear, violence, greed, and despair, and so I want the music of God’s love to reach every cell of my body…every corner of my heart. And I hope others hear this music, as I play it, and remember that the Child born in Bethlehem continues to reign as Lord of every star and every planet and day and night.
The birth is the beginning of a new reality…a new normal.
“O HOLY NIGHT” IN THE BATHTUB
It is not enough, of course, just to play the music a week or two longer than it may be offered on commercial radio/internet. Our actions and words, during the 51 weeks ahead, are key factors in reshaping our world in the way of the Prince of Peace.
Will we do business in February or June remembering how we knelt at the manger and gave the Christ our hearts…our lives…in December? Will the words we use, in conversations in March or August, reflect the grace and truthfulness of Jesus? Will our positions, in our political and economic life, reflect the compassion and concern for the poor we see in Jesus?
The music of Christmas will continue not just as make our selections when it comes to the stereo, radio or internet, but the music of Christmas will continue as we let the way of the Christ be reflected through our words and actions each day.
Our three year old grandson was taking a bath at the end of the day on Christmas. Lying there, half-submerged in the water, he began to sing “O Holy Night.” He sang it from start to finish.
I’m thankful the music is inside him.
I pray the music will always be inside him.
I hope he’ll grow up to be a man who lives the music.
Let the music play…
- Join us this Sunday for worship in the Sanctuary at 10 a.m. or at the Buskirk-Chumley at 11:15 for The Open Door.
- Order your copy of John Pavlovitz’s book A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community (Westminster/John Knox Press) as we prepare for a new sermon series that starts January 7th. This series of messages has the capacity to change the church in powerful and beautiful ways!
- Thanks to all those who helped make the Advent and Christmas seasons so beautiful at First Methodist: ushers, greeters, musicians, building staff, office staff, and so many others.
Blessings to each of you as we move into a New Year together with God!