Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Advent, Christianity, Christmas, Spirituality, Sufjan Stevens
Do you like to listen to Christmas albums? Around the Howard Merritt clan, after Thanksgiving, we broke out the old Christmas CDs and began listening to Harry Connick Jr. croon and Ella Fitzgerald scat while Willie Nelson sang about the birth of Christ. They have played in our home and they have played in our car almost constantly. I have to admit that I grow inpatient with the obscure and new Christmas songs skipping to the old standards. These are the songs that we all sing along with.
As we lustily sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Jingle Bells” I find myself preferring instead old hymns. Songs of birth, expectation, hope and peace are now more important to me than snowmen, reindeer and riding through the snow to grandmother’s house.
Each year we have another family tradition connected to Christmas music. It is adding a new Christmas album to the collection of music that we already own. We almost forgot this year. So, I went on itunes and found a box set that had fascinated me in the past. It is an album called Sufjan Stevens Presents Songs for Christmas. Evidently since 2001 Sufjan has taken a week out of the year with friends to record a Christmas EP in his kitchen of original music and songs from a Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook. On the website we are told that Sufjan began making this album as an exercise to help him “appreciate” Christmas more. It sounds like this was a tough holiday for him. It is a wonderful and eclectic mix of sacred and profane songs. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” is mixed with the song “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!” Yet, once again I found myself fast forwarding past the clever Christmas originals to “Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming,” “Amazing Grace,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” “ What Child is This?” “Once In Royal David’s City,” “Away in a Manger,” and “The First Noel.”
Ever since I have been asking myself and others, “Why is it that I love to sing these songs so much?” Some have told me it is because it reminds them of coming down the stairs on Christmas day and having those happy family memories of Christmas past, a connection to their history. Others have told me that they are the most fun songs we sing during the year. I think when I answer that question it could be a mixture of both, but more than that when I sing them I believe in what I hope the Christmas message is and can be to us all: God with us, salvation for a people, Joy to the world, hope, peace, mercy, love and grace. I hope that all of these begin to be realized in your life beginning this season.
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