*Hey, it’s a great freakin’ line…I had to use it at least once!
When you get right down to it, the church drove me out of established Christianity, but it didn’t kill my faith. It wounded it…it drove it into hiding…but it didn’t kill it. I still have my own version of faith, and Christmas is still a time of year that means…well, everything to me.
Now, my favorite carol is a semi-nonsense song: “Little Drummer Boy”. If you listen to the lyrics, however — and I mean really listen — it is a song about the poor and broken, about those who have nothing to offer but themselves. As an artist, that song resonates more than I generally like to talk about.
To that carol, I want to add another. Err, two more. This post was, in fact, intended to be about only one of those, but I’ve always been given to excess, so you get two.
The title above comes from the first of those, comes from “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”*. It would be hard to find a song that better mirrors the bitter despair that so characterizes…well…just about everything nowadays:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
That pain and despair, and the hope that arises at the end of the song…well, Ray Bradbury described it best: “immensely moving, overwhelming, no matter what day or what month it [is] sung.”
Much as I like that carol, however, that is not what I set out to write about.
No…for a number of reasons, I am not ready to unpack that song. Nor am I ready to truly embrace the hope with which it (and the Longfellow poem from which it was created) ends.
The song behind this post is very, very different. It channels that one sin I have so often sworn does not afflict me: the sin of nostalgia, and of memory.
It doesn’t afflict me because I don’t let it…except at this time of year. This time of year starts a chain of memory that, for me, runs unstoppably from the bittersweet of Christmas to the still-raw pain of New Year’s Eve.
There has been a lot of water under my particular bridge. I’ve felt some of the highest highs you can imagine. And the lows…they’ve been there, too.
In all that has gone on in my life — from success to depression, and everything in between — I have built and strengthened that armor we all wear…the armor of the adult. We insulate ourselves, we protect ourselves…and we forget what it means to feel.
Think back to when you were ten…
The world was a very different place to a ten-year-old. Now, in many ways, the act of “growing up” is as good as it is inevitable. But, no matter how good, we lose something in the process. More than lose something, we sacrifice something…we sacrifice a very great deal, in fact.
We sacrifice not just the magic, and the honesty, and the imagination, of childhood…but also the hope, and the ability to lose yourself. To lose yourself in the excitement of a special time of year…to lose yourself in the simple pleasures of the world around you…to lose yourself in the closeness that comes only from those who share the imagination and dreams of the young…
I want to feel Christmas how it used to be
With all of its wonder falling on me
This season has felt so empty, oh, for quite a while
I want to feel Christmas like a child
I want to see snowflakes fall to the ground
My brothers and sisters all gathered around
Singing “away in a manager” as we sit by the fire
I want to feel Christmas like a child*
Part of this, I have to admit, is because my family is not whole…and has not been for years. I miss my sister…and, for whatever reason, that loss is just more real on Christmas. I want to be able to laugh and love — to play and live — the way it was so many years ago.
I want, in the end, to go back to when it was all so easy…and so happy.
* “Christmas Like A Child” — Third Day, 2006, Essential Records