In Terra, Pax

“What ever happened to White Christmases?” is kind of a silly question where I live, because they never existed in the first place.  To be honest, I hold nothing against any of the people who enjoyed a nice 6-inch-think sheet of snow outside their houses as they sipped their hot cocoa and opened gifts this morning…  But even I think that a high of 70 is a bit ludicrous.  Evidently it’s just not in the town budget to afford snow on Christmas Day, which is understandable.  It’s definitely in high demand this time of year.  As long as we get a respectable amount in January and February, I’ll be happy.

So, it was fog and not snow through which the streetlamps shone in the streets of the town below as I stood in the church parking lot last night.  And it was strange.  But I was kind of okay with it.

Funny how the more you think about things, the more sense they seem to make.  Because as I drove slowly through the ethereally backlit clouds of mist on the way home, it occurred to me that what I found so enchanting about misty evenings is being limited in how far you can see.  When the edges of reality are hidden behind a sheet of monochrome, one imagines that anything could exist behind them.  You could be on a cloud, or somewhere in Europe.  Or in an uninhabited, vaguely magical carbon copy of your own hometown.

And it occurred to me that this visual handicap is an appropriate metaphor for Christmas.  When Christ the Lord was born in Bethlehem, two-thousand and sixteen years ago, give or take, how few people realized the implications of his coming.  For though He appeared but the average child of a poor / middle class young family, His coming was heralded by an army of heavenly splendor, and a fantastical star illumining the sky.  And at the edges of reality, shrouded by the mist, lay His future, His Passion, death, and Resurrection: the future of the whole human race.

That such awe-inspiring power and divinity came down to earth contained in human form is a mystery we will never entirely understand, though many have explicated its essence well.  It too hangs over our lives like a mist, and is equally as enchanting and mystifying…

Just some thoughts this Christmas Day.  Or night, that is.  I hope you, dear reader are enjoying your evening, and I wish you peace, and joy, and a very merry Christmas, and pray to God to bless you abundantly.

But what would Christmas be without the annual Window Philosopher Christmas Playlist?  (And there is still plenty of time to enjoy it, right?  Epiphany’s still a ways off.  🙂

God bless, and good night.  Christus est natus!  Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax, alleluia, alleluia!

In the Bleak Midwinter

My dear readers, I need not tell you what night this is.  It is a night of awe.  It is a night of joy.  It is a night full of wonder and light.

It is the night on which a truly astonishing and perplexing thing happened.  Some random cave in the hills outside a backwater town in Judea became the world’s most sacred palace.  A few ragged shepherds and their bleating flock were divinely appointed the blessed courtiers of this holy place.

Then a weak, crying, helpless Infant was born to a poor Jewish family.  And He was the ruler of all Creation.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

And that’s the greatest miracle of all time.  Even considering 34th Street.

Well, I suppose it’s the second greatest.  But the world would have to wait 33 years for the greatest surprise of all.

My dear readers, I pray for all of you, that you may have peace on this night.  That the crisp December air, the light of a fireplace, the carols echoing around you might infuse the world around you with that great paradox of Christmas: that all might be electrified with light and joy, and yet wrapped in a gentle winter’s breeze, sleeping in heavenly peace.

And as the weary world closes its eyes for sleep in this bleak, bleak midwinter of our time, let us who believe in Him who was born at Bethlehem hold high our torches against the night, wild and bright-eyed and roaring with the laughter of a newborn child.  For the fire of our hope cannot be quenched to ash by the frozen gust of any winter.  Let us turn our hearts to Him in joy, and strive never to turn away again.

After all, that is who we are called to be.  Joy and love and friendship and kindness and a heck of a lot of what we associate with the holiday season in general.  That is our identity, every day.  That is who He is.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas.

Enjoy the playlist.  Each of these songs means something quite special to me, and I thought I would share them because they are all so beautiful.

  • My Lord Has Come by Will Todd is one of my favorite pieces we sang this semester in choir.
  • What Child Is This – an awesome arrangement by Straight No Chaser, which we also sang this semester.
  • Carol of the Bells as arranged by George Winston is just one of my favorite things.  Ever.
  • Night of Silence / Silent Night is a crossover I’ve loved since the first time we sang it at Christmas Eve Mass.
  • Grown-Up Christmas List has been on my mind since one of our graduating seniors sang it as a solo this semester.  It’s a song I think we can all relate to.
  • The 12 Days of Christmas as performed by Straight No Chaser is just so expertly written and absolutely hilarious.
  • Gaudete – a medieval carol as performed by The King’s Singers.  An awesome piece by an awesome group.
  • Let It Go / Vivaldi’s Winter – a medley by The Piano Guys.  C’mon, it’s been a year since Frozen came out, and even if you still can’t stand the original, I bet you’ll enjoy this arrangement.
  • Angel’s Carol by John Rutter was one of the first pieces I ever sang in children’s choir, and it forever has a special place in my heart.  It’s lovely.  (Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
  • Christmas in Dixie by Alabama is one of the (very) few country songs I really enjoy, and quite apropos to this list and my geographical location.
  • Sleigh Ride as performed by the Boston Pops (aka the original version).  The orchestra we sing with every Christmas always plays this at the end of their Christmas concert and it’s become something of a tradition.  It rather says to me, “Good job!  You conquered the truckload of extra rehearsals and driving all over the earth!  I hope it was fun to sing with us!”

And yeah.  It’s worth it.

We Say “Advent”

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!  DOWN WITH THE SECULARIZATION OF CHRISTMAS!

“But Luke, what are you talking about?  How can you be against the secularization of Christmas and the way in which society begins celebrating it before Halloween if you’re already wishing us a happy New Year?”

Because I’m talking about a different New Year than you are, dear hypothetical objector.  Allow me to explain.

I had been thinking about writing a post like this for a few days, but it came to a head when I saw a sign on a church off the interstate proclaiming “Christ Is Born!”  I could not help but cry out “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I’M DYING I’m dying I’m dead.”

I know not all denominations of Christianity observe Advent, but such a reaction comes as second nature to me.  I can’t see the point of celebrating Christmas when it isn’t Christmas.  And here’s why.

Say there’s some person who innocently thinks “Alright, society is celebrating Christmas now.  So shall I.”  Now, there’s never anything wrong with celebrating the amazing fact that God came to Earth and lived among us.  But see here, as an analogy: suppose you have a guest coming to stay in your home.  What’s the first thing you do?  Do you start partying when you hear the news up until they arrive and then tell them to leave the next day?

I hope not.

When you have someone coming to visit, you clean up.  You vacuum and dust, you make the bed in the guest bedroom, you make sure you’re home when they arrive.  Then can you be ready to host your guest for several days.

Traditionally, Christmas is preceded by a season of expectation and preparation known as Advent.  It means something along the lines of “towards the coming” in Latin.

Before we can welcome Jesus into our hearts, we have to prepare a place for him.  We must silence our hearts in readiness to hear His message.  Advent is just that: a time of preparation for His arrival, making room in our soul for Him to dwell there.  It’s a time of prayer and reflection.  (For Catholics, it’s also the beginning of a new liturgical year, hence my opening exclamation.)  It’s a joyous expectation, but it’s not the all-out party that Christmas should be.

And that’s the other thing.  Christmas had become mainly “the pre-Christmas season” any more.  It’s like if football fans spent the entire weekend before a game tailgating and then left five minutes into the first quarter.  To be clear: the Christmas season starts on Christmas.  (Ever heard of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”?  Or the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night?)  Why would you exchange twelve days of celebration for one day of celebration?  ‘Tis no fun.  😦  And the twelfth day, Epiphany, is almost as much of a celebratory occasion as Christmas Day.

So, lets prepare a home in our hearts for Christ, and then celebrate His birth for more than just a day.  Just as there’s no Easter without the pain and sacrifice of the Cross, there’s no Christmas without the solemn, silent excitement and expectation of Advent.  It makes the arrival that much sweeter.

P.S.  The best version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” ever to be performed, IMHO:

P.P.S.  In case you don’t get the reference that the second half of the song makes: