Blog Particles of Light Spirituality

Free from Fear :: Embracing Christmas Hymns

December 10, 2014

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This blog post was written exactly one year ago.  I saved it, forgetting to publish it during the Christmas season.  Coming across it again in the folder of blog drafts I have written, I decided to publish it now.  The year has brought so many changes… oh so many.  My heart toward Christmas is much softer this year, much more expectant.  Perhaps this consideration from last year planted a seed that blossomed in adversity in 2014.  

Oh, thank you Jesus.  Thank you for being the Rock, and our Freedom from Fear. 

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So many things are associated with Christmas.  Snow, hot cocoa, trees and lights and presents… mad shopping, huge money spent, family fights… dinner together as a family, laughter, tears… all of it.

Personally, I always have a difficult time embracing the holiday season.  I am surrounded by people who absolutely love it– my mother, my grandparents, Jamie and her family.  Deep down, I dread the holiday season.  Actually, I kind of dread all holidays in general.  There is this sense of expectation, and a hope for magic.  This is the one area of life where I am too in touch with reality to buy into the fluff, and I just put on my phony smile and go along with what everyone else is doing.

Today, I was driving up from Denver to Vail, to spend Christmas with my family and Jamie’s family before leaving on my trip.  It was slow going, as it was snowing and the roads were terribly slippery.  I got to listening to some Christmas music (I’m not a Scrooge, really), and had a bit of an epiphany.

The Christmas songs that speak reality to me are the old Christmas hymns.  “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”, “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”, “On a Bleak Midwinter’s Night”.  They are powerful, and speak a message so different than the mere “warm fuzzies” that the rest of the season offers.  I guess I dread the season because it promises something, and then never delivers.  It promises that stuff, or that certain cookies, or a certain atmosphere, or the right combination of songs and a fireplace will fill my soul.  It promises that everyone will be happy and joyful together, when we really know that my dad’s wife hates my guts and can’t wait to corner me and yell at me.  I’m just saying… the “American Christmas” is so overstuffed with expectation and promises of magical moments, and has absolutely no way to deliver on those.

But when we pause, and remember the origins… ah, there is a reality.

I was listening to “O Holy Night”, and specifically the second verse.  You know, the one that no one really knows, since Mariah Carey never gets that far in the song:

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother
and in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of peace in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within me praise His holy name!
Christ is the Lord!
Oh praise His name forever!
His power and glory forevermore shall reign,
His power and glory forevermore shall reign.
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Earlier today, I was having coffee with a friend who works with troubled teenagers.  We got to talking about how it can wear you down to work so hard and so rarely see results.  The things her kids face are very real.  Drugs, abuse, forced prostitution, prison.  So to sing “chains shall He break” feels like I am declaring a promise and clinging to something solid.  I am about to go to Africa and see children who have been torn apart by war, who are starving, who are orphaned.  What can I say to them that will bring any hope?  My goodness, how will I cope myself with seeing these things that are so foreign to me?

In this season that makes so many false promises, my heart clings to the ONE and only who makes real promises.  Promises I can stand on.  Promises that we as Christians are banking our entire lives on.  We are putting all our hopes in Him, all our chips on the table.  Christ is a REALITY.  The truth that He came to a broken world full of broken and selfish people to save us from ourselves and the darkness around us is the only thing worth clinging to.  We are either the recipients of the greatest treasure in all the universe or the greatest fools and the most to be pitied.

Clinging to promises, clinging to a Rock, declaring who He is… it’s empowering.  It’s comforting. In the midst of troubled teens, war torn cities, and even our rather crazy families (everyone has one!)  Looking our fears directly in the face and singing at the top of our lungs that we believe in the reality of Christ– it silences them.  Try it.

No need to forget all the things you love about this season.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving the smell of cinnamon in the house or building snowmen and having family around.  Just remember that the “warm fuzzy glittery vague magic” that leaves you disappointed at the end of the day.  Call me a Scrooge, but if this is the one and only way I am able to embrace the holidays this year, then I feel as though it is successful.

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart. 
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever 
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
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