Christmas Unplugged

Blog, Essays, Featured, Music — By on December 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Does Christmas music make anyone else crazy?

At a certain time of year, we just can’t escape it.

From Black Friday to White Christmas, it is all a distraction, and the soundtrack to the season seeps everywhere. Love them or hate them, these songs have little to nothing to do with the original Christmas. At best they remind us of the shadows of the possible.

And somehow, at the big-box churches, we see something I never would have imagined possible; the bland spectacular.

I’ve been to more than my share of these Christmas and other holiday events, concerts and services. I’ve participated in a few, and walked out of some.

Few, if any, have matched the searing simplicity and stark beauty of a star-filled sky on a clear and frigid evening, when, to quote a famous Christmas song, “every soul feels its worth”.

I’d like to see Christmas music that reflects the rejection and harassment that impacted Jesus from the beginning; his birth in poverty, scandal and exile, his coming of age in a culture of adolescent arranged marriage, where, by Biblical accounts at least, he was, for whatever reason, not considered a good match and never married, and of course, his ultimate betrayal by his friends and followers and final crucifixion.

If there is anything Christmas music should never be, it is the familiar cheerful blandness we usually hear.

Christmas music unplugged from the holiday machine should be more like a mournful dirge as we reflect on Christ’s rejection – from his own community, and ours, in the First Century  – and the 21st.

We still refuse “room” in our hearts and schedules for the baby who would remind us of our earthy humanity, our literal connection with creation.

Do we honor Jesus by our chirpy holiday music? Or do we honor him by our own commitment to the Lord and the challenging and healing work of restoration.

To commemorate this birth, I’d like to see a Christmas service that reflects this Jesus. This would be far from the usual holiday extravaganza that seeks to dazzle us. Show me instead a quietly joyful, somber and reflective acoustic celebration, one that would call us back to the baby, in his silence and simplicity, who reminds us of the only gift, the only story that really matters; the glimpse of eternity held in a baby’s gaze.

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  • Bill Dolan says:

    Sounds like you’re hinting at something radically different, but my favorite collection of Christmas songs is Bruce Cockburn’s “Christmas.” His goal was to treat some well-worn seasonal favorites as if they were just good songs. His take on songs like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” at least give the chance for the words to come through. I mean, a line like – “to save us all from Satan’s power, when we have gone astray” should have some impact that gets lost on most slick glossy renditions. I’ve never heard any of his versions while shopping, which is another plus.

  • Ray Horton says:

    Sufjan Stevens’s Christmas album. That’s all I need to say.

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