We’ve come to the end of another season of Mainlining Christmas. This is our fifth year, and we’re running out of pithy things to say to close out the holiday.
However, even now, even year five, we’re still learning new things.
Long-time readers may remember my complicated relationship with Christmas carols. I’ve been sporadically looking for a version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” that matches the ideal version in my head for years. And I’ve always felt especially uneasy about my love for this song. It’s a weird one for me to get hooked on; much of the time I tolerate the semi-religious songs and only really latch on to more secular tunes. But “Do You Hear What I Hear” has always been an exception.
Last weekend, we were in the car, listening to Christmas radio, and a version came on. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. For one thing, it had a lead singer, and I really wanted a chorus. But it reminded me that I hadn’t tried to look up my ideal version of the song in a few years, so I pulled out my phone.
And I was startled to discover that this song, that sounds, to my ear, like a classic carol, was written in 1962.
And it’s about the threat of global nuclear annihilation.
The Christmas story, in this case, is being used as a story, a story that shifts as the speaker changes, but one that culminates in a plea for peace among all people.
It was first recorded by the Harry Simone Chorale, and it turns out that arrangement is the one I was looking for. A steadily building harmony of voices, changing to evoke the wind, the song, the people, leading to the final call for unity and light.
Now, don’t be misled. I’m still not Christian, and I don’t find the story of Jesus any more inspirational than most any enduring myth. But to quote one of my favorite holiday specials: “The meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning.”
And it can mean a lot of things. Holiday specials and songs bring us many of the options. Christmas can be about childlike wonder, the end of childhood, forgiveness, compassion, family of origin, family of choice, stress, depression, good fortune, generosity, and more.
We live in a media-saturated age, so let’s embrace it. I hope that all of you find a movie or a song or an animated special this year that speaks to you, that helps you find some good cheer, feel less alone, or brings hope for the future.
You don’t have to be religious to wish for peace on earth. Here’s to goodness and light in 2015.