Christmas music makes me cry.
Not all of it, granted. And I’ll also admit that a lot of music makes me cry.
But pause for a moment and take in the concept that we sing about:
The omnipotent, omniscient God became a human baby.
What’s the average weight of a newborn? 6, 7, 8 lbs?
My backpack weighs more than that most days.
The Lord of Lords became a baby who weighed less than my backpack.
Like, what even? That’s humility beyond my understanding, vulnerability beyond my comprehension. It’s kind of taking my breath away just to even type that.
The God of the universe was cradled by a teenaged mother, who probably sang lullabies to help the King of Kings fall asleep.
I mean, come on! If that doesn’t blow your mind, then your head must be made of something other than brains and bones. (If that’s the case and you haven’t had some kind of surgery to implant a titanium plate in your skull, then I’d suggest you talk to a doctor because you might be a cyborg…)
One of my favorite pictures is from two years ago, when I was directing a goony bunch of high school and junior high students in a Christmas play, and we’d all gathered to take pictures in costume. My younger sister Gracie was playing Mary—and, let me tell you, she looked cute and she knew it—and my best friend was playing Joseph, and the two decided to make fun of each other rather than acknowledging how awkward it was for a thirteen year-old to be playing the wife of a seventeen year-old.
But…we weren’t too far off from being pretty accurate: it’s more than likely that Mary was, by our culture’s standards, just a child herself when she gave birth to Jesus. Probably thirteen or fourteen. Joseph could’ve been as young as sixteen or seventeen, though he might have been older. We can’t know for certain.
Jesus came into the world weighing less than my backpack and trusted himself to the care of a teenage girl from Nazareth.
Let me just say that I wouldn’t trust myself to raise a child, much less thirteen year-old Gracie (or even fifteen year-old Gracie.)
That’s what the Christmas songs are about. That’s what fills my eyes with tears.
The magnitude of the gift…it’s too great.
I don’t feel worth it.
I don’t feel worth anyone giving up the glories of heaven to lie in a feed trough and cough on the dust stirred up by a stable full of restless animals. I don’t feel worth anyone learning the pain of burs and splinters and skinned knees and the cruelty of other humans.
But Jesus did.
One most likely not-so-silent night, nestled away in a smelly little stable in Bethlehem, Jesus took his first breath of earth’s air and changed everything forever.
I think I’m failing at writing this post in the way that I want to.
I think maybe my heart’s too full and I’m trying too hard.
Let me try again.
Take a deep breath. Hold it for just a moment.
Okay, now rummage around your mind and find all that cynicism you’ve accumulated over the years. It’s okay that it’s there, your life hasn’t been easy, but it’s not something you need right now. Gather it up.
Now let that breath out, and exhale that cynicism, too. Like I said, you don’t need it at the moment.
Humor me just a moment more and go back into your mind palace (mine’s actually more of an attic, hence the subconsciously attic-y metaphor I’ve got going on here) and poke around in those cobwebby corners for that spirit of exuberance you retired years ago. Remember that glow of excitement that everything used to bring bubbling up within you? That’s what we’re looking for. Childlike glee.
Found it? Yeah, I know: the lens got foggy with disuse. But don’t give up on it. Because it’s Christmas, and you’ve got ample opportunity to polish that sense of delight.
Is there a Christmas tree around? Notice how the lights stand out against the green of the branches? The way the ornaments nestle in like they’re basking in the glow? Remember your first ornament? How proud you were to hang it from a branch and how you didn’t notice when Mom came along later to double check that it wouldn’t fall?
And the weather. Outside. What’s it like? Prayerfully it’s not a bajillion degrees outside, but I suppose it could be. If it’s chilly, though, check out the way the air intensifies everything, the way the colors stand out from each other in crisp perfection. Summer smears it all together, but winter clarifies the world. It’s pretty spectacular, snowing or not.
We’re going to try ignore all the department stores. They make me nervous because there are people everywhere. And too many of them haven’t read this blog post and are still clinging to their cynicism. (So it’s your job to be a beacon of joy and hope. Show ‘em what they’re missing and make ‘em wonder if maybe there’s something better out there.) But if you do end up in Wally World or wherever, look for the joyful people. The ones who remember what a joy it is to be alive in December.
Are you feeling any better? I hope so. I desperately hope so. I hope that you can spontaneously break into laughter because you remember what a beautiful world you’re a part of. I hope you’re remembering how it is to feel things instead of retreating back into the safety of numbness, because safe does not equal fulfilled.
Christmastime is such a roller coaster season for me, because—whether I like it or not—I approach life with a vivacious attentiveness that demands that everything be felt on, like, twenty-seven levels or so. And there’s just so much to take in! Colors and tastes and smells and feelings and songs!
The songs especially are big for me. There are the fun, peppy songs like Jingle Bells and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree that just make me want to dance. There are the popular songs like All I Want For Christmas and Winter Wonderland that make me just a touch frustrated and just a touch sad because I don’t have a significant other to share the season with and I wish I did.
But then there are all the other songs, my favorite ones, the ones that tell the story of the season. I know the traditional ones by heart, and I know most the new ones pretty well, too, and I basically sing along no matter how hoarse I may happen to be. And sometimes I cry. Because…well…what the songs have to say is pretty amazing.
They tell of a baby, born in a stable, heralded by angels, and greeted by society’s outcasts. But not just any baby: the baby who was God-become-flesh, come to earth to dwell among his creation and, ultimately, to redeem them from the fate they’d brought down upon their own heads. It’s a beautiful story. It’s a true story. And it’s a story with incredible implications in my own life.
Sometimes I wonder if we don’t forget to remember those implications. If we don’t just go on about our lives when, in reality, we should stop to let our breath be taken away by the beauty of perfect humility and perfect love.
I’ve actually put together a list of a few of my favorite Christmas songs. For you. Wherever you are. My prayer is that you’ll be able to carve out a few moments of quiet to let the words wash over you, to replace the bustle of preparing for Christmas with the peace of the victory Christmas has already accomplished. And I pray that, with childlike awe, you’ll learn something new about Christmas this year, and that you’ll live it in a way that makes other people notice.
I love Christmas, because nearly everybody is glowing with the magnanimity of the season. But the people who are glowing with something more…those people are truly a delight to encounter.
Have a joy-filled day.
Christmas Playlist on Spotify
Christmas Playlist on YouTube