From the Sabbatical Minister - December 19, 2019

In the Christian tradition, December 1-24 is the season of Advent – understood as a time for considering the coming – and the second coming – of the Christ; it ends on Christmas Day, with the words from the Book of Revelation, “joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

But in the meantime – the month is filled with waiting: waiting for joy, waiting for hope, waiting for peace, waiting for love, waiting for the child, waiting for grace.

It is in this time of Advent that we take time – and fortunately, we have music libraries filled with holiday songs to make the waiting less difficult (sometimes filling us with nostalgia, sometimes bringing us cheer, and sometimes annoying us – I’m looking at you, “Little Drummer Boy”). Over the next four weeks, I’ll be exploring the themes of Advent through the lens of some of my most beloved and cherished holiday songs.

“Winter Wonderland”

What do Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Kenny Rogers, Radiohead, Air Supply, Merle Haggard, Aimee Mann, Selena Gomez, and the Polyphonic Spree all have in common?

Of course, they’re just a few of the over one thousand performing artists who have covered the 1934 classic “Winter Wonderland” – written by Felix Bernard and Richard Bernhard Smith. It’s a classic, to be sure. And while it’s not specifically a Christmas song, it does get a fair amount of air play this time of year.

The song is about a couple enjoying the sights and sounds of a beautiful winter day, and they let their imaginations run away with them as a snowman turns into a minister and we learn of their love for one another.

It’s really a song about love.

Which, of course, is one of the themes of Advent – love. As we sing in Mark Belletini’s translation of O Come Emmanuel, “Emmanuel shall come within as Love to dwell.” We’ve talked a lot about waiting this month, and I think that when we wait in love, we wait with a hopefulness, a gentleness, a kind of grace. This song clearly highlights young love – two people who found themselves and have their own future together:

Later on we'll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid the plans that we’ve made

As we wind down to the end of 2019, I expect many of us have ideas and plans for 2020; do they bring you anxiety or curiosity? Are you waiting in frustration, in fear, in anger? Or in love? When we wait in love, we can see the ‘beautiful sight’ of the snow glistening as we pause. And we see not loss but newness:

Gone away is the bluebird
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song as we go along

Advent invites us to hopefulness, to a loving perspective. May your waiting be blessed with love.

(And while you wait, listen to one of my favorite versions of this song by the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald.)

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