It’s that time of year again.
I jumped the gun again, and started listening to holiday* music, even though it is only the day after Thanksgiving, and not even Advent yet. And that includes a fair amount of actual Christmas music, even though I know I should not be listening to Christmas music until CHRISTMAS (sorry, Maly).
My tastes in Christmas music tend to run to traditional carols and humorous secular songs. My favorite secular Christmas song is Barenaked Ladies “Elf’s Lament,” mainly because it takes the cult of Santa Claus (to which we do not adhere in our house) down a notch or two.**
Last year a friend sent me “The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams. It’s a lovely little song about ecumenical understanding, about gathering together and looking past differences to celebrate family and time together. I really like it.
Except for this one line: “She said ‘Christmas is like Solstice.'”
No, it’s not.
I don’t have anything against Solstice. It’s a wonderful idea for a holiday — to celebrate the turning of the year, the joy of Creation and the passage of the seasons. What better time to mark the gift of time? To recognize the blessing of the fallow time of winter, and to prepare for the rebirth of spring? Maybe it’s just that I’m hazy on the pagan theology here, but I don’t object to Solstice.***
But that’s not what Christmas is about. Yes, there was a Christ child, wrapped in swaddling clothes, if we are to believe Luke. Christ comes to earth to redeem mankind, and will walk upon the earth not for a year but for over thirty and when he dies he will not be a small babe wrapped in swaddling clothes but a man tortured and broken who goes unflinchingly to his death. A willing sacrifice for all the world. I don’t understand it, but I accept it.
Solstice is for a season, a year. Christmas is for a season, but is a symbol of the eternal.
*Holiday, not Christmas, because there are a fair number of generic cold-weather songs such as “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and some Hannukah songs, such as the Velveteens “Get Your Channukah On.”
** One notable exception to my liking for humorous secular songs is “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”: I can’t stand it.
*** The early church fathers did, but handled it by appropriating much of the symbology of Solstice or Yule celebrations, such as trees, and holly or mistletoe, and the date of Christmas itself. The Bible doesn’t indicate what time of year Jesus was born, but it’s a fair bet it wasn’t on December 25th.