Finally Advent is here! For the next 26 days we will gather together as families and friends and live into the anticipation of what is coming--the Incarnation of Jesus Christ (and of course Santa)! And I wonder about the practices you will elevate during this season. . .
As I sit here this morning, my MacBook is softly playing Christmas music for me. This morning's playlist is a combination of hymns and popular Christmas carols set in a loop for me. As each one begins softly my ear attempts to identify it.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing. . .
Angels We have Heard on High. . .
Sleigh Ride. . .
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. . .
On and on the songs go. My ear hears them. Identifies them. And then catalogues each song in my mind as I smile. This final step helps me to remember the stories of my life that are associated with each song--the good and the sad.
Invariably my stories of Christmas end up in one of two places: the church or my Grandma and Grandpa Koptish's home (These are my mother's parents).
For instance, I can feel the hymnal resting in my hands as I do not need it to proclaim these songs in the context of worship. Eyes closed I sing each with love and joy. Candles on the advent wreath burning. Wearing my Christmas ties that my father bought me (I have 6 of them. . . the perfect number if you think about it).
I remember Grandma and Grandpa's. The record player in grandpa's desk playing each song. Bing Crosby. The Carpenters. I can hear them all in their front room. Their tree usually sat across the room to the right of the room. It was a full tree, but short and squat one. I have never seen lights like their lights on a tree. They were so different. Memories so rich that I had to lean back and smile today. . . I have fond memories of their home and Christmas with them.
Then with each memory I thought about the idea of new memories that will be formed here at Bethesda. The joy, the anticipation of worshiping the newborn king in our sanctuary for the first time. The Christmas Eve memorial time. Knowing that I/we will make some wonderful memories as we sing our Christmas carols together.
One of my Doctoral instructors suggested a book to me years ago that came to mind today as I heard the Christmas music today and as I thought about my memories. In his book, You Are what You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, James K.A. Smith wrote:
"In this way the gospel isn't just information stored in the intellect; it is a way of seeing the world that is the very wallpaper of our imagination. Stories that sink into our homes are the stories that reach us at the level of our imagination. Our imaginations are captured poetically. . . We're hooked by stories, not bullet points."
As The Little Drummer Boy plays, I have a fresh group of memories flood my mind. As Advent begins, and we make new memories together, I wonder what stories come to your mind of Christmas and what places are you being called to share them?