I read recently that the two most popular songs this Christmas are Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You." and the Shin's cover of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." However, the Guinness Book of World Records considers Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" the best-selling single of all time.
Lately, I've got to say, given the current state of the world, I've had some trouble singing some of those most loved songs of the season. Ok, I know "White Christmas" is talking about snow when it says "May all your Christmases be white" but, still... it's also talking about a view of the world and an understanding of Christmas I really don't buy. It's a Disney snow-globe, nostalgia for something that never really existed in the first place, versus a vision of a different kind of future where there is actually peace on earth and good will for all people.
As some of you may know, along with doing a bit of writing in this blog, I also occasionally write songs, primarily with my husband Gary and 20-year-old daughter, Hannah.
So last December we started writing some new Christmas songs together, songs that, for me, were a way to try to make sense of this world in which things seem broken so often...where police officers are shooting people they are sworn to protect, where there are 60 million refugees..."displaced persons"...on our planet. Where we have people who call themselves Christians who spew hatred from podiums and pulpits and suggest it's time to arm ourselves so we could "end those Muslims."
Where we all walk around with our own private sorrows and hidden hurts. And swirling, bat-shit crazy mind underneath a veneer of relative normality... or maybe that's just me.
Looking for the hope in all that, I began writing words, words that grappled with what the heck God could possibly be doing in the world and what difference could Jesus' birth possibly make in the midst of all the crap going on, all around us, and frankly, sometimes inside us (and by "us" I mostly mean "me").
And then because I have fabulous musicians in my family and in our circle of friends, an album of those songs was born. We brought together folks who don't all look alike or sound alike, and the music that came out of that collaboration could best be described as indie-folk meets gospel choir meets worship band. And because they are all such good musicians, the words I wrote, full of lament and longing, doubt and questions, and also stumbling hope, fumbling faith and, oh yes, love, became beautiful and singable and sometimes even downright joyous. (Yeah, I know "joyous" is not how stuff I write is often described...so miracles can happen...)
Recorded this summer and fall, on no budget, but with a lot of community and passion, we released it on some online music download sites in late November and the response has been kind of amazing.
So I wanted to share it here with all of you who read this blog, my people, you, who grace me with your kind words so often. Who have been my virtual community this year. Who hold me up and say "Oh yeah, I know what you mean," who inspire me and help me feel less alone.
Think of it as my Christmas gift to you. A thank you for reading, and for sharing your own thoughts and questions and stories. And for becoming a way I've been able to see more of what some of us call God in this world.
You can listen to the album below (just click the arrow and the track listings will appear) and download it for free through NoiseTrade, a wonderful site where you can discover all kinds of great, independent music. You can also read a little more about the stories behind each of the songs here.
I hope you enjoy it. And more than anything, I hope it gives you a little more hope. And maybe makes you want to do the kind of singing that is, as the theologian Walter Bruggemann has said, the kind “…which is a refusal to accept the dominant definitions of reality…an insistence that there’s another way to experience the world and... another way to act in the world.”
I will leave you with this lyric video of one of the songs, written last December, after I walked, with my church, in a Black Lives Matter march to Water Tower Place. Afterwards I started thinking about how Emmanuel means "God With Us" and the real miracle of Christmas is that God is to be found in the places where the hurting are, "where the helpers are," as Mr. Rogers' mother used to tell him, even where the shots ring out, and always in our “Longest Nights.”
I take comfort and yes...joy...in that.
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My last post in case you missed it It's time to say, "It hurts here."
Here's another post you might like, about the Black Lives Matter march that started it all: Racism, White Privilege and What I Got at Water Tower Place
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