Merry Christmas Eve!
Christmas is coming! With Thanksgiving being early this year, it seems as if we have been in a long season of anticipation, and with it came the annual assault on Christmas. I am not talking about attempts to "cancel Christmas"; instead, I have been chased by the relentless noise of commercialism in the media. It started with our annual tradition of watching Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, which seemed like more of a long commercial break than a showcase of artistic floats and musicians. Then, our family attended "Snowflake Lane," a derivative of NYC's Macy's Parade, with too many fluffy songs about Christmas magic and too few meaningful carols or symbols of the holy-day. We listened to Christmas music curated by Alexa and Spotify, only to hear Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" on repeat, and relentless upbeat, jingle bell-y advertisements for cell phones and music subscriptions for purchase "with no ads." It was enough to turn anyone into a bit of a Scrooge!
And yet, in the midst of the noise, we made time to be culture-shapers in our own home, car, school, and church. We found our much-loved Christmas CDs and channels by artists who have musical integrity and wonderful creativity in bringing the Christmas story to life again. I had the privilege of putting together a condensed version of Bach's Christmas Oratorio (originally six hours long!) for our school's concert, and our girls sang selections from both the Oratorio and Handel's Messiah while images of the nativity painted by Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Botticelli played in the background. I played a selection of classically arranged Christmas carols in the lobby at our church between services, as well as providing music for the senior citizens' Christmas luncheon. My husband and I chaperoned a school event of 9th and 10th graders, dressed in modest semi-formal attire, to a fancy dinner and a Victorian-era play inspired by Jane Austen. In our own little way, we curated our own Christmas "playlist." I hope that we also spread not only "Christmas cheer," but the beauty and reverence due our Lord Jesus, whom we celebrate at this time of year.
It may be too late to run out for any last Christmas gifts, but I have been enjoying a daily advent reader this December that provides some meditations on Handel's Messiah (along with an enclosed CD!). The book provides some wonderful insights into the text, as well as beautiful artwork and selections of the score. I highly recommend it: The Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader.
Another interesting read is The Man Who Invented Christmas, a biography of Charles Dickens. The author makes a case for Dickens being responsible for popularizing some of our well-loved Christmas traditions: decorating the tree, feasting with family and friends, giving generously. Of course there is discussion of how A Christmas Carol came to be, but did you know that for several years Dickens produced Christmas-themed stories in periodicals? One of my girls is reading Great Expectations this year, after having read A Tale of Two Cities last year and A Christmas Carol the year before. Although hers is required reading for school, I have enjoyed revisiting these books and becoming reacquainted with the social commentary Dickens provided through his novels.
This is My Story. This is My Song.
I'm presenting a new concert in January at my church, this time for the seniors' group (but you are all welcome!). On Thursday, January 11th, from 10:00-11:30am, I will be presenting "This is My Story. This is My Song" at Canyon Hills Community Church in Bothell. This is a program of hymns and classical music by composers such as Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Liszt, accompanied by my personal testimony of God's faithfulness as a Master Gardener who began a good work in me, called on me to "plant" and "water" His gifts well, and continues to grow me up in Him. More than a performance, this is a call to worship the Giver of all good gifts and give glory to the One who is writing your story. If you are free, please come! No tickets or admission are required.
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This content is from Cori's November-December 2023 Newsletter. If you would like to receive her newsletters in your inbox, click to subscribe here.