“I Love That Line!” by Guest Writer Nate Smith

CC BY-NC, Israel Defense Forces, Flickr Israeli paratroopers on Mt. Hermon enjoying the season's first snowfall
CC BY-NC, Israel Defense Forces, Flickr
Israeli paratroopers on Mt. Hermon enjoying the season’s first snowfall

This is the fourth and final post in the “I Love That Line!” series that features writers’ reflections on their favorite Christmas carols. Nate Smith, writer of Breaking the Silence, reflects on two stanzas from “Winter Snow.”

It is hard for me to imagine a non-hectic Christmas. Just the mention of the word used to leave a sour taste in my mouth having worked retail on-and-off for ten years and then in restaurants. People swiping cheap gifts off metal shelves to satisfy their family’s greed—(It’s a watch.)—and others: “I cannot believe you’re working on Christmas!” and my unspoken reply: It’s because you’re shopping, you idiot!

It’s the busyness of the season that caused me to hate Christmas. There was always another party to attend, another person to help, another gift to buy that dragged my savings account back to zero. Each act didn’t feel like giving either; instead, it felt more like an obligation to appease those high on the Christmas spirit.

Quiet, Soft, and Slow

The idea of slowing down during Christmas is not usually signaled by numerous texts and e-mails inquiring, “What’s your new mailing address?” So the arrival of a greeting card reminded me not only of those who love me, but also the fact that my address has changed every year for the past seven years.

It was me with the vagabond status that was also not slowing down. But how do you slow down when every year you’re readjusting to a new place? My heart was unsettled in many ways. The Christmas rush was always a stark reminder of feeling left way back in the mix. The season’s great anticipation was simply lost in the chaos.

“Winter Snow” captured my heart last year. The verses explain all of the ways Jesus could have come to earth. It could have been like a storm, a fire, a tidal wave, among other ways. Indeed, it would have been so easy to make a big statement in a region overrun with turmoil and war.

“But you came like a winter snow,
Quiet and soft and slow,
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below.”

It was so simple. Jesus entered quietly, a whining newborn lying softly in the manger distanced from war. His was a refugee status that proclaimed to the world that somehow the kingdom of God was now here.

Everything about it was gentle and unexpected, nothing rushed. A nine-month pregnancy cannot be rushed but birthed with patience. And like the snow when it falls, it changes everything it touches. It brings silence and silences the crowds, for winter has come.

Thy Kingdom Come

I see in my many address changes an odd approach to how the yearning human heart seeks after God. And it prompts me—vagabond spirit, unsettled nature, and all—to slow down and really notice how the Kingdom comes.

Now escaped from Christmas greed, I can see the beauty of Christ everywhere—in the laughter of those frolicking in the snow; in the warmth between a couple strolling and admiring Christmas lights; in the anticipation of gingerbread cookies almost done.

“Oh, no, your voice wasn’t in a bush burning.
No, your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind.
It was still; it was small; it was hidden.”

Read more by Nate on his blog Breaking the Silence.

“I Love That Line!” by Michael Stephens

CC BY-NC, WanderingtheWorld (www.ChrisFord.com), Flickr
CC BY-NC, WanderingtheWorld (www.ChrisFord.com), Flickr

This is the third post in the “I Love That Line!” series that features writers’ reflections on their favorite Christmas carols. Here I reflect on a line from “The Christmas Waltz.”

Christmas is a season of slowing. In spiritual formation, slowing is the habit of literally slowing ourselves down and resisting haste (Selah). I’m happy that Christmas, specifically, is that rest, like a musical interval, the world uses to breathe and regroup. Holidays of national identity and other observances just aren’t capable of offering the repose we desperately seek.

Instead, it is themes of thankfulness, giving, and spiritual reflection that best express who we are as humans and how we are supposed to function in an essential way. The Christmas season, more than any, helps us rediscover ourselves. I consider it a remarkable work of God and human custom, so good for the soul.

The Christmas Complex

It is why I especially love a line from “The Christmas Waltz”:

“It’s that time of year when the world falls in love,
Every song you hear seems to say
‘Merry Christmas! May your New Year dreams come true.’”

And no one sings it better than Frank Sinatra, for whom it was written. His robust yet silky-smooth voice seems to slice through the apathy and rigor of a year almost done, holding forth something in our faces almost too wonderful to behold, maybe even an invitation—This is what you’ve been seeking.

Why we fall in love with this time of year is something I don’t fully comprehend. It’s so nuanced…and I like it that way. Of course, hardliners will preach, “Jesus is everything about Christmas!” Obviously, the birth story is central to it all. Jesus’s advent is significant for Christians and the unreligious who identify with Christianity. Yet those who understand the role of lore in human culture appreciate the narrative, also.

Simply put, with or without a religious attachment to the season, we still find ways to participate in its wonder.

Christmas transports many of us back to our childhood and the days before we lost our innocence to a life of making a life and the woes that attend it. For others of us, Christmas is a celebration of family and the only time we ever see our families. And who doesn’t love gift-giving, surprises, and festivity with loved-ones?

Christmas is cheerful because we make decisions to set aside grievances, forgive, and show grace (think Snoopy and the Red Baron). Some go even further and find in the season a perfect opportunity for acts of service and humanity to others.

Wonder in a Tune

If there is one expression inclusive of all these significations and the many more we don’t see, it is surely Christmas music—“Every song you hear seems to say, ‘Merry Christmas! May your New Year dreams come true.’”—isn’t that so true?

Christmas music, I think, is one of the quickest ways to get in the Christmas spirit. It gladdens me up instantly, and I think it does the same for many of us. The implication resounds: we seem to derive our greatest joy from motifs of fellowship, love, giving, faith, and family. Undoubtedly, these humanize us and enliven cold hearts that have often calcified with indifference and distress throughout the year.

You see, Christmas may be a single day on the calendar, but the spirit of Christmas can and should be a yearlong reality. “Oh, that we could always see such spirit through the year.” Well that’s a personal choice, and it should wait no longer.

A Christmas done right adequately prepares us for a new year. Our focus has hopefully fixated on substantive things. And for all the rest we’ve desired and forsaken and loved yet lost earlier in the year, we can now set real goals, not mere resolutions, and hopefully fill the new year with more Christmas as we attain them.