Wilderness in the Key of C

While the church is a bit fussy about music in Advent, I confess to being obsessed with the “mall muzak” of the holiday season.

Ever since I was a little kid, Jingle Bells has brought me joy; O Come, All Ye Faithful has given me comfort. The chaos of my childhood home not withstanding.

loved to sing — though Sister Inez Patricia kicked me out of the Glee Club for belting out Joy to the World off key. I cajoled my piano teacher, whose name I have sadly forgotten, into letting me play Christmas carols all the year round. And I have a vague memory of actually gathering a sibling and likely my grandmother (who would have humored this child) “’round the spinet” a time or two.


No matter how chilly December days, these musical memories warm like chestnuts roasting in a yuletide fire.

But not to over do it! Psychologists warn us that overdosing on Christmas music is not good for your mental health. Especially, if you start tuning in the first of November, when Target has put up all of their Christmas stuff – post Halloween. The Twelve Days of Christmas will definitely drive you crazy, when you still have fifty-five days to go!

But this second Sunday of Advent, I think we are safe.  “All things in moderation,” my dad used to say.

Comfort, comfort ye my people, speak ye peace thus saith our God;

Comfort those who sit in darkness mourning ‘neath their sorrows’ load;

Speak ye peace to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them;

Tell her that her sins I cover, and her warfare now is over.

Second Isaiah’s words, lyrically translated into hymn #67, make a good measure of the the muzak we play – to make our souls merry – this holiday season.

Our lives in this world – no matter how charmed our circumstances – are but a walk in the wilderness. A wonderful walk. A dazzling and challenging walk.

And OMG!! This last year (almost two in fact), has been wilder and weirder and more bewildering and possibly even more wondrous than those past. In these times of Covid and with the miracle of vaccines, we’ve born witness to:

  • newborn babies and loved ones dying;
  • terrible twos and aging parents;
  • lost jobs and new occupations;
  • forgotten friends and remembered relations;
  • the newly married and the recently divorced;
  • funny new habits and homegrown traditions;
  • among many other things.

Whether any of the above be private, personal, public, or shared — having a Holly, Jolly (and hopeful) Christmas is a complicated thing.

For a bakers’-dozen-years-running now, two of my children, Zach and Colleen have produced an annual Christmas album. It is not your usual holiday fare. It started out just silly and fun but has turned into a sibling bonding ritual they return to each year. (Zach now being 39 and Colleen 37!!)

Zach writes the dialogue and Colleen narrates. And each album has a different tongue-in-cheek theme – that captures the mood and the meaning of that particular Christmas:

Party Hardy Christmas (with Colleen);

Down Home Country Christmas (with Colleen);

Christmas All Around the World (with Colleen);

The Smooth Sounds of Christmas (with Colleen);

and a recent favorite: Make Christmas Colleen Again! Hahaha!

The tracks they choose are outlandish, surprising, delightful, poignant, moody, and sad.

Each of them is a cacophony of voices, crying out in the wilderness – a way to tune into Jesus in the manger once again. A way to tune into the crazy Second Coming of God.

(Though I am pretty sure they would not describe it that way! Ha!)

So, what have you got on Spotify or iTunes, or whatever music source you use?

As a spiritual exercise, why not put together your own “Messiah” playlist: whether it be Handel, Bing Crosby, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Gregorian chant, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Instead of a Christmas letter, you can share your playlists and attach it to an e-Christmas card.

My own Spotify playlist which I, so creatively labeled: Christmas, Christmas, Christmas 🙂 shuffles 267 carols — 14 hours of music — in the privacy of my car (or my living room.)  Where I can sing along – lustily and with abandon – which I recommend most highly!

And this coming Saturday, December 11 at 5:00 p.m. join us here in the pews for “Bells, Carols & Cocoa!” The Bell Choir will ring in the season, (masked) we’ll sing holiday favorites, and play a little Christmas trivia too! Dress festive in your craziest Christmas sweater! There will be prizes!

Bring a neighbor! Invite a friend! I hope to see you there!

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! Happy Second Sunday of Advent!

And for those who read to the end, here are some BONUS TRACKS for you! Click here to listen to my Spotify Playlist: Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!


Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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