Maybe a dozen years ago, I started to make a conscious effort not to listen to Christmas music until the Christmas season had begun. It basically meant I didn’t listen to the radio in the car from Thanksgiving until December 25. If a Christmas song got stuck in my head after I was in a store or out elsewhere, I tried not to indulge it, and made a choice to think of another song instead.
The first year I did it, when I finally sang a Christmas hymn in the context of Christmas Eve Mass, I was brought to tears. It’s been the same every year since.
Fasting from music that tells of Christ’s glorious birth during the season of Advent makes belting those songs out when the time has finally come all the more powerful. I am more aware that I had been waiting for this moment. I had been lacking something that has now come to completion. Alleluia!
In the time our Lord was born, people didn’t know the end of the story like we do. It can be tough to really get into the mindset of Mary and Joseph, to understand the experience of the shepherds and wise men, considering what we know now. This practice of listening to music in only the seasons for which they were created helps me to experience their perspective to some degree.
The thing is, it’s getting harder to stick with this philosophy as my kids get older. Their school performs a (beautiful!) Christmas concert in mid-December. The older boys play a piano recital around the same time at a local retirement community. I’m not going to avoid these events or lip sync when the final sing-along is played. I want to participate as part of the community, and acknowledge that not everyone has the same take I do.
What I’ve found I can do is use these performances as moments of prayer. What am I really saying when I sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”? How does that link into the words of “O Come, All Ye Faithful”? (These are two of my favorites, and I just realized the similarities between them.)
First, I am begging the Lord to come. I am aware of my longing for Christ. I need Him. I desire Him. I want Him here as soon as possible. I can’t live this life without Him. I was made for Him.
And then, I declare that the time has come. Our Lord has blessed us. His glory is revealed. We are joyful, we are triumphant, and we will praise and adore the Lord for His gracious gift of Himself.
One song informs the other, just as one season informs the other. Both are realities of our human condition — there is longing, and there is hope. There is anticipation, and there is glory revealed.
In this time when our waiting is coming to an end, let us prepare to rejoice without forgetting that deep longing that makes us who we are as Christians, no matter which station your radio is on.
What is your favorite Christmas hymn, and how does listening to it or singing it help you to connect with the Lord?
Copyright 2019 Lindsay Schlegel