Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Bittersweetness of Christmas

Sufjan Stevens - 'That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!'

Going outside
Shoveling snow in the driveway, driveway
Taking our shoes
Riding a sled down the hillside, hillside

Can you say what you want?
Can you say what you want to be?
Can you be what you want?
Can you be what you want?

Our father yells
Throwing the gifts in the wood stove, wood stove
My sister runs away
Taking her books to the schoolyard, schoolyard

In time the snow will rise
In time the snow will rise
In time the Lord will rise
In time the Lord will rise

Silent night
Holy night
Silent night
Nothing feels right

Something is missed in our Christmas celebrations if we don't pause to remember the tragedy that makes way for the victory. The Son of God comes and there is immediately no room for him. Only the angels can yet see 'Peace on Earth'; foreshadowed in that stable-birth is the wooden cross upon which the earth will push this boy away.

That's why I love Christmas songs like 'In the Bleak Midwinter' and 'O Come O Come Emmanuel'. The first through narrative and the second through tone capture the bittersweet incompleteness of the event, even while hearing and believing and celebrating the angel's promise and the gift of God's Son, Israel's Messiah, to a weary world.

Truth is, Christmas is not merry unless a resurrection tells us so, and I think in a sense, like Good Friday, our reflections on it can both celebrate and express longing. Seeing as the incarnation and resurrection have not yet reverberated fully through the cosmos, our advent waiting is a waiting still. This track from Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas captures that perfectly, and I really like the simplicity with which this person put it to video. We can only imagine what might be going on in these houses, and so we remember the gravity of the manger and understand what it could mean if 'in time the Lord will rise.'


Anonymous said...

Haven't commented in a while here - but still really enjoying all your postings. Really thoughtful stuff, Jon.

For those who were looking, I checked and found that Brock Tyler's Christmas EP was still hosted up on his site. You can download it here for frees:
BUT - if people enjoy it, it'd sure be nice if they also took a trip over to and dropped a bit of change on "Unclosing" and his new single.

Thought you also might enjoy this:

Jon Coutts said...

hey Jon, glad you are still out there!

Yeah, I don't know if I like that 'manger scene with a different message'. I think it could accomplish the same thing, only better, by keeping the scene as it is traditionally and adding the 'inn' wherein can be seen people watching TV (preferably dancing with the stars!). But this isn't a major complaint I'm lodging I suppose. I guess I take slight annoyance at too obviously preachy nativity scenes the same way I do really in your face church signs. Want to call me nit-picky on that one?

Thanks for the links to Brock Tyler.