Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Moment Christmas Happens

December 13, 2000

Every year, the Christmas Spirit hits me in a different way. Sometimes with a song, others with a Christmas movie, and still others with the decor of the season. But this year was different. The other day I was sitting in math class and absentmindedly humming the tune of "O Come All Ye Faithful." Taking a bit more notice, I began to sing the words softly. I was on the second verse, the part where it says, "Glory to God, Glory in the highest," when it hit me. Christmas isn't simply about songs, religious or secular, or movies, or trees. Sure, it's about those things, too, but the true, original reason for celebrating Christmas is Jesus. Jesus deserves all the attention we give to the extra stuff like songs and movies. He deserves all the glory. Jesus deserves everything we can give Him and more. He is the way, the truth and the life. No one can go to God except through Jesus. And it was through Jesus, in a stable in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, that God came to us. That is what Christmas is all about.

December 6, 2007

It's not always with music, though. Sometimes Christmas happens when I'm standing in the check-out line at Bartel Drugs to buy a copy of TV Guide, while the heady scent of magazine perfume samples mingles with the rich aroma of fifty-cent chocolate bars, and the sight of a child giving his precious handful of change to a Salvation Army Santa nearly brings tears to my eyes.

But for me, Christmas does happen with music a lot. Like when I'm driving home from work one night listening to Nat King Cole's version of "Silent Night" and singing along, my pure alto skimming over Nat's smooth baritone: "Radiance beams from thy holy face/ With the dawn of redeeming grace/ Jesus, Lord at thy birth..."

This year it happened with music again. I was lying on my bed listening to Rebecca st. James' Christmas album. It might be my favorite Christmas album, or at least in my top five. It's ten years old, and most of the songs sound totally nineties (think faux-grunge and drum machines). But it's worth it for the non-traditional renditions of classic carols, a soulful "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," a satisfying cover of John Lennon's "Happy Christmas," and the ethereal beauty of st. James' version of "Silent Night."

Christmas happened as I listened to the last song on the album, titled "A Cradle Prayer." In the liner notes of the CD, st. James writes: "Imagine yourself, sitting by baby Jesus' cradle on the night He was born, and singing to Him everything you were feeling inside... the lyrics just flowed onto the paper."

As I lay there listening to the words, "Jesus I love you, my Lord, my life... Here in the quiet, the still of the night/ I am in awe of you," I began to wonder what I would say if I had been there the night Jesus was born, while the heady scent of fresh-cut hay mingled with the rich aroma of cow manure, how the sight of a Child giving His precious life for the salvation of the world would bring tears to my eyes, even as it did in my own time and place. Could I say anything at all? Or would I simply gaze in speechless wonder at the Creator of the Universe lying in a feeding trough with a teen-aged girl, a carpenter, some guys who watched sheep for a living, and a bunch of livestock for company?

Jesus came to Earth in the most humble way possible, but I have a sneaking suspicion that even cloaked in ordinariness, the Christ Child was still an awesome sight to behold, and I would be incapable of forming a coherent sentence when faced with His physical, visible presence. But, fortunately, Rebecca st. James already wrote exactly what I would be thinking: "Why would you, Creator and King/ Come as a baby for all, for me?/ Beautiful Savior my God, my friend/ I am in awe of you."

And in that moment of awe and complete wonder, that is when Christmas happens.