As I write I am listening to Christmas music, as I have done fairly exclusively since the beginning of Advent. My taste is pretty far-reaching; I enjoy the silly, the traditional, the modern, and the reverential. I have listened to instrumental, acapella, jazz, choral, rap, reggae, and pop versions of many of the same songs over the last few weeks, and for the most part, enjoyed them all.
This love of Christmas music was started by my mom, who would begin playing Christmas music in the late summer and early fall while she sewed Christmas outfits and pyjamas for me and my siblings, along with other gifts. For many years her sewing room was beside my bedroom, so while I was reading comic books with a flashlight after being sent to bed, I could hear her sewing machine going to the soundtrack of Christmas music.
I don’t usually bring out the Christmas albums as early as my mom, but there are a few songs that are never really out of my playlist. My husband is a staunch “No Christmas music before December 1” person, and I try to respect that (at least when I’m around him). However, once December 1 or Advent (whichever comes first) arrives I surround myself with the soothing and uplifting sounds of Christmas music.
A number of years ago, I went through a very rough patch with my mental health and had a hard time functioning beyond the bare minimum. I could only listen to Christmas and classical music without experiencing significant anxiety. So even though Christmas was still a few months away, that was the music I played. Recently, I have understood why Christmas music worked at that time when so much did not. With a few exceptions--looking at you Blue Christmas—Christmas music is hopeful. This makes sense given that hope is one of the main themes of the Christmas story. For many the hopeful parts tied to the Christmas season include days starting to get longer again, connecting with family and friends in intentional ways, and time to rest from the normal day-to-day routines of school and work.
As Christians, along with the above, we have the hope that comes from celebrating the birth of our saviour and being reminded of all that He represents. While that hope is always important, this year it feels especially pertinent and like something we all need more of in our lives. For me, Christ’s coming offers hope and comfort with the gift of God with us.
As I celebrate a very different Christmas this year, I am hopeful that next year will bring a return of in-person interactions with family and friends, kids’ Christmas concerts, and meals shared with loved ones. I also hope that we can bring some of the good things that we have experienced and learned over the past year into the post-COVID-19 season of life, and help heal some of the brokenness that has been brought to light.
While Christmas is not over yet, I am already anticipating next December when I will again wallow in the sometimes cheesy, sometimes schmaltzy, sometimes silly, sometimes reverential, sometimes goosebump-inducing, but always hopeful music of Christmas.
-- Jennifer Rempel
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