advent journal: sing to the night

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We got our Christmas tree up today, along with the candles in the windows in good New England fashion. And it’s halfway through Advent. As I was working on things this afternoon, I listened to my friend Billy Crockett’s  song “Coasting Into Christmas” and found a helpful and hopeful resonance, which led me to think this might be a night to share some of the songs that feed me through the season. We’ll start with Billy. The song, by the way, is found on this wonderful record, A Very Blue Rock Christmas.

Coasting Into Christmas

coasting into the holiday season
why don’t we drive around and see some lights
buy some eggnog for no good reason
singing carols may be up all night
this year we’ll take it slow
and savor every part
feel the ancient wonder
as it penetrates our heart
but the lines were so long
and the car was so dead
and the mystery thing happened
with the pumpkin bread
and we’ve got extra second cousins coming over
can we find them a bed
and I know this holiday can handle
all things great and small
but I guess we won’t be
coasting into Christmas after all

coasting in with the holiday spirit
I think I’ll sharpen up the turkey knife
but they’re killing each other down at the galleria
but here at our house it is a wonderful life
this will bring the season in with perfect flow
champagne and candlelight
and Mr. Perry Como
but the credit cards maxed
and we still don’t have a tree
and the packages came back
with a postage fee
and grandma’s been detained
by airport security
and they are skating right now
at Rockefeller Plaza as I recall
but I guess we won’t be
coasting into Christmas after all

and just by chance I glance
at these small figures in the round
and think about the story
that’s been so long handed down
how the pregnant girl takes to the road
on a rented donkey with her boyfriend Joe
and there ain’t no inn in Bethlehem
seems to have gotten the memo
now they’re hunkered down exhausted
in some two bit barnyard stall
and they said, I guess we won’t be
coasting into Christmas after all
no I guess we won’t be
coasting into Christmas after all

James Taylor at Christmas gets a good bit of play around here, and the song that seems to have particular meaning this year, in the face of so much xenophobia, is “Some Children See Him.”

Some Children See Him

some children see Him lily white,
the baby Jesus born this night.
some children see Him lily white,
with tresses soft and fair.
some children see Him bronzed and brown,
the Lord of heaven to earth come down.
some children see Him bronzed and brown,
with dark and heavy hair

some children see Him almond-eyed,
this Savior whom we kneel beside.
some children see Him almond-eyed,
with skin of yellow hue.
some children see Him dark as they,
sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray.
some children see him dark as they,
and, ah—they love Him, too

the children in each different place
will see the baby Jesus’ face
like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
and filled with holy light.
o lay aside each earthly thing
and with thy heart as offering,
come worship now the infant King.
’tis love that’s born tonight

If you’ve followed this blog through other Advents, you know one doesn’t pass without me mentioning Patty Griffin and “Mary.”

Mary

Mary, you’re covered in roses
you’re covered in ashes
you’re covered in rain
you’re covered in babies, covered in slashes
covered in wilderness, covered in stains
you cast aside the sheet, you cast aside the shroud
of another man, who served the world proud
you greet another son, you lose another one
on some sunny day and always you stay, Mary

Jesus says, “Mother I couldn’t stay another day longer”
he flies right by and leaves a kiss upon her face
while the angels are singing his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place

oh Mary, she moves behind me
she leaves her fingerprints everywhere
every time the snow drifts, every way the sand shifts
even when the night lifts, she’s always there

Jesus says, “Mother I couldn’t stay another day longer”
he flies right by and leaves a kiss upon her face
while the angels are singing his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place

Oh Mary, you’re covered in roses
you’re covered in ruins
you’re covered in secrets
you’re covered in treetops, covered in birds
who can sing a million songs without any words
you cast aside the sheets, you cast aside the shroud
of another man, who served the world proud
you greet another son, you lose another one
on some sunny day and always you stay
Mary, Mary

The next song is another repeat performance, this time by Steve Earle.

Nothing But A Child
once upon a time in a far off land
wise men saw a sign and set out across the sand
songs of praise to sing, they traveled day and night
and precious gifts to bring, guided by the light

they chased a brand new star, ever towards the west
across the mountains far, but when they came to rest
they scarce believed their eyes, they’d come so many miles
and this miracle they prized was nothing but a child

and nothing but a child could wash those tears away
or guide a weary world into the light of day
and nothing but a child could help erase those miles
so once again we all can be children for a while

now all around the world, in every little town
every day is heard a precious little sound
and every mother kind and every father proud
looks down in awes to find another chance allowed

and nothing but a child could wash those tears away
or guide a weary world into the light of day
and nothing but a child could help erase those miles
so once again we all can be children for a while
nothing but a little baby
nothing but a child

“The Peace Carol” is a song I first learned from John Denver on his Christmas Special with the Muppets (you can watch the whole thing here). Beth Wood offers a wonderful version that is also a part of A Very Blue Rock Christmas.

The Peace Carol

the garment of life, be it tattered and torn
the cloak of the soldier is withered and worn
but what child is this that was poverty-born
the peace of Christmas Day

the branch that bears the bright holly
the dove that rests in yonder tree
the light that shines for all to see
the peace of Christmas Day

the hope that has slumbered for two thousand years
the promise that silenced a thousand fears
a faith that can hobble an ocean of tears
the peace of Christmas Day

the branch that bears the bright holly
the dove that rests in yonder tree
the light that shines for all to see
the peace of Christmas Day

add all the grief that people may bear
total the strife, the troubles and care
put them in columns and leave them right there
the peace of Christmas Day.

the branch that bears the bright holly
the dove that rests in yonder tree
the light that shines for all to see
the peace of Christmas Day

I’m going to send you off with one more video from James Taylor that doesn’t need lyrics. All you need to do is share the joy.

Peace
Milton

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I love these musical selections. My favorite is “Some Children See Him”, but have always wanted to change one word in the last verse:

    “the children in each different place
    will see the baby Jesus’ face
    like theirs, ALL bright with heavenly grace,
    and filled with holy light.”

    since each child is a gift from God, with infinite potential.

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