My (Suzanne’s) favorite Christmas song

Michael recently posted some of his favorite Christmas songs, and I would like to share with you the one that has ranked number one for me the last couple years.  Even in the off-season it makes me cry every time.  Though Michael’s taste in music is much more “high brow” than mine (translation: I have a hard time understanding the lyrics of his favorites), we both appreciate, as Michael says, “songs that speak to the mystery and wonder of God Incarnate.”

My favorite Christmas song is “Be Born in Me (Mary)” by Francesca Battistelli.  Here is the verse that really gets me:

All this time we’ve waited for the promise
All this time you’ve waited for my arms.
Did you wrap yourself inside the unexpected,
So we might know that love would go that far?

Can you imagine being Mary?  The Jews had waited SO LONG for a Savior.  They had the Law which helped them know better how to have relationship with God, but there was always that deep down awareness that they were never able to fully keep the Law, continually reminded that they were breaking relationship with Yahweh every time they sinned.  They longed for a time when the sacrificial system was no longer needed.  When they could be truly freed from the burden of their sin.  The whole of all Jewish history was focused on waiting for the Promise of a Savior.

And here was Mary, recognizing in wonderment that The Promise was laying right there in her arms.  She was His Mommy!  And even more, that the Almighty God waited thousands of years for her arms!  Maybe it’s just me, but I step inside Mary’s sandals, and it gets me every time.  “Father, you are trusting me with Your Son???”

Here is the other part of the song that resonates with me:

I am not brave, I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl, nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours

I especially felt this way during our adoption of Kieran.  Before we even knew who our son would be, we knew we were supposed to adopt an older boy who was about to age out of the system.  Who brings a teenage boy, with most likely unknown issues, into their family with 5 young vulnerable children at home??  From the outside, that doesn’t sound like a very wise decision.  Yet, I knew, without a doubt, that is what God was calling us to do, so we had to move forward in faith.  And even though God called us to pursue this, it didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be any problems, but we had to keep trusting in Him to walk with us step by step.  I am not brave.  I am just trying my hardest to be obedient and thanking God for His grace when I fail along the way.

I know where I have been.  How I grew up very insecure with a lot of baggage.  I, like Mary, wasn’t anyone special.  Just a girl.  But I sit in wonderment of how God would take a little girl and speak to her and use her for His service.  But that is the God we serve, the One who takes nobodies and shines through them so that HE is glorified.  His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.  And I have plenty of them for Him to work with. 🙂

What Do You Remember?

Note: I gave this communion meditation at church this morning. Thought you might appreciate it.

Have you ever wondered why you remember what you do? How does that work?

Socials scientists and the people who study these things have a number of theories and have identified several factors that influence memory. One of those is surprise. When something unexpected happens, we tend to remember it. Surprise gets our attention because it lifts us out of our routines, takes us out of the ordinary. Let me give you an example.

Many, many Christmases ago, when my brother, Marc, and I were probably 3 and 4, we were very eager to open our Christmas presents. My parents knew this and suspected that we might get up before everyone else to get a head start on the gift opening, so they posted my grandfather as a guard in the living room. We got up out of bed, Marc and I, at one point and Gramps chased us back to bed, presents safe, mission accomplished.

But then we got up again. And Gramps was sleeping on the sofa. And we got into the living room. And Gramps didn’t wake up.

So we started to open presents. Only, we couldn’t read the nametags so we didn’t know which presents were ours. So we just unwrapped all of them.

Every. Single. One.

And my grandfather slept through the whole thing.

Now, why is that memorable?

In part, because it’s unexpected. We all have holiday traditions and, though they might vary somewhat, they probably go like this: get up, have breakfast, open gifts, play, eat lunch, go to grandmas house, watch football, play a game–you get the idea. On that particular Christmas, though, Marc and I broke the pattern. We did something surprising, something unexpected, and that’s what makes it memorable.

You’re probably thinking of some holiday yourself–a Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday–where something didn’t go as planned, either good or bad, and you remember it.

Now, before you get lost in that thought, listen to this: Jesus, at the last supper with his disciples, did something surprising as well.

For hundreds of years, God’s people had celebrated the Passover. They shared a meal together as a way to remember how God led them out of slavery in Egypt. When Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples that last time, he took the bread that would represent his broken body and said, “This is my body. Do this in remembrance of me.” He did the same with the cup, a cup that represented God’s promise of redemption. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus was identifying himself as both the Passover sacrifice and the fulfillment of God’s saving promise. No one else could or would have done that.

He broke the pattern, did something unexpected, something surprising at that last Passover. Because he was going to do something even more surprising than that: break the pattern of sin and death that had enslaved us all and give us new life and new hope.

Songs for Christmas (or Any Time)

I love Christmas music.

There, I’ve said it.

But the local radio station starts playing Christmas songs on Thanksgiving weekend and I get burned out on their 100-song rotation. Who will save us?

For me, the best Christmas songs are songs of faith, songs that speak to the mystery and wonder of God Incarnate. And I’m also interested in arrangements and interpretations of traditional songs that give them new life.

Two albums that never get old for me are Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas and Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas. Cockburn’s record contains some gems but his simple rendition of “Silent Night” is money. My favorite songs on Stevens’ album actually aren’t the Christmas songs but two hymns, “Come Thou Fount” and “Holy Holy Holy.” Not a fan of all the graphics in the videos below; close your eyes and enjoy the tunes.

What records are you listening to in the Christmas season?