Why I think that New Year’s resolutions are silly, but I’m making some anyway

Leave a comment

 

This expression has achieved popularity in my family, and I think it should go viral.

This expression has achieved popularity in my family, and I think it should go viral.

It’s New Year’s Eve, the day when we think back on many of the events of the previous year, discuss what an [adjective] year it’s been, and then make New Year’s resolutions about what we’re going to do differently next year. Maybe I’m just being a smart aleck, but I don’t think that any of those customs make a lot of sense. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate New Year’s Day. Far be it from me to ever imply that a holiday should not be observed; holidays are cool. I just think that the date of New Year’s Day is arbitrary. After all, the Earth moves around the sun all the time, and the transition from one calendar year to the next is not a significant event in the big picture.  The nostalgia and resolutions associated with New Year’s Day are equally appropriate at any point in the year. In fact, in my opinion, New Year’s Resolutions are not good ideas because most people take it for granted that New Year’s Resolutions will be quickly broken. Besides that, the holiday season is very different from other times of year, and it can be very difficult to transfer a new good habit from one mode of existence to another.

With that being said, the beginning of this week is actually a very convenient time for me to rearrange my schedule and to specify my relatively-short-term goals. My classes start on January 3, and I want to get into a regular schedule as quickly as possible. Therefore, here is a list of some of the projects I will be starting at approximately the beginning of the New Year.

 

1. I intend to keep posting stuff on my blog frequently. Once I post this, I’ll have written seventeen things this month, which I think is a pretty decent rate. However, I only posted nine things in October, and in September, I updated this blog a grand total of one time. That’s not cool.

writing hand2. I plan to do a lot of other writing. Specifically, I want to do the kind of fun creative writing that I used to do from about 10 BC to 1 BC. (BC stands for Before College) I have two cool ideas for novels, so I think I’m going to write them both, and I think I’ll start writing short stories again, too, because that was always fun. And I’m going to re-edit a goofy science fiction story that my sisters and I started writing together several years ago.

3. I hope to find more time to play internet chess and scrabble and to get a lot better at them both. Yes, I know that internet games are pretty trivial, but I defend them as a hobby on the grounds that they’re fun and good for one’s mind. Besides, I think that any skill is a skill worth having if you have enough interest to make the effort. (With the obvious exception of anything that’s immoral)

4. I’m going to read a lot, just because I’ve always assumed that that’s the way my life’s supposed to be.

5. I need to get a job off campus. That’s not so much a personal project as a matter of necessity; I need money to get through school. But while I’m at it, I hope to get a really, really cool job and to be really, really good at it.

6. I really should spend more time reading the Bible than I do now, and while I’m at it, I should take advantage of the awesome fact that I own a copy of the Book of Concord. I’ve had it for years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some things in there that I’ve still never read before.

7. I am about to start the 2013 list of my top 100 favorite songs. Actually, I’m considering doing a top 250 list this time. Such a project is very time consuming. It first involves sorting through all of my CDs and MP3s and making a list of every song I own that I really like. This list will generally be at least 600 songs long. Then, over the period of several days or even a couple weeks, I cross things off the list as I decide that they’re less cool than the others. Once I have the list down to 100, (Or, in the case, maybe 250) I record a short clip from each song and then edit them all into a list, which then gets posted onto Youtube and burned onto a CD.

8. I have to learn how to play my electric keyboard, which I have had for several months now. I can play melodies, and there are a few beginner-level piano pieces or simple hymns that I can play with both hands, but that’s the extent of my musical greatness.

9. I want to learn another language. I haven’t decided yet what language to start with, because there are several that I desperately want to know. The problem here is that I’m kind of stupid in that area. The only reason I know English at all is that I’ve been exposed to it all the time for my entire life. I’ve made several attempts to learn other languages, and I took some French in high school and then in my freshman year of college, but I never got the hang of it. I think it’s essential that I give it another try, but this time, it’ll be something other than French.

 

Just for the record, I am not contradicting myself by listing these resolutions and plans after demeaning the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. These aren’t New Year’s Resolutions. They’re just for this coming month; I have other stuff to do in February.

New Year

A Public Service Announcement: It’s Still Christmas!

Leave a comment

Christmas TreeWe have reached that time of year when people take down their Christmas lights, pack up their Christmas trees, stop singing Christmas songs, and begin to wish it was springtime. This puzzles me. It’s still Christmas, people! Christmas begins on December 25 (Or, rather, late on December 24, depending upon how you look at it) and lasts for twelve days. Today, December 29, is only the fifth day of Christmas, and Christmas doesn’t end until January 5. After that, January 6 is Epiphany. The Epiphany season is kind of like Christmas and lasts until Ash Wednesday or Septuagesima Sunday. [Note: I have here deleted several hundred words on the topic of Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays because I realized that these words were irrelevant here. Maybe I should save them for a separate blog post on Septuagesima Sunday.]

I personally am in favor of leaving Christmas decorations up and listening to Christmas music into February. If you’d prefer to take down your decorations sometime in the first couple days of Epiphany, though, that’s fine with me. That’s the way my parents have always done it, with the exception of a couple decorations that stay up until Candlemas. (Candlemas is on February 2) It is not okay with me, however, if you take your Christmas decorations down before Epiphany. Until Epiphany, it is still Christmas.

Nativity SceneI can offer you several reasons for this insistence upon extended Christmas celebration by directing you to this older blog post. But why would anyone want Christmas to end so soon anyway? We spend weeks preparing for Christmas, looking forward to Christmas, and obsessing about Christmas. Why would you want it to end after just a day or two? I personally have never found the pre-Christmas season to be too terribly stressful, but even I think that it’s more fun and more relaxing to sit around enjoying Christmas after the 25th than to try to cram all of your mandatory Christmas celebration into the last week or two before Christmas Day. It’s no wonder that some people think Christmas is more stress than it’s worth; we have to fit so much joy and happiness into such a short time that we don’t have the opportunity to enjoy our joy and happiness. In my opinion, joy and happiness aren’t real unless you are capable of enjoying them. That’s just one more reason to keep observing Christmas for the entire Christmas season.

This is my current facebook profile picture because it's pretty and it's Christmasy and it shows snow.

This is my current facebook profile picture because it’s pretty and it’s Christmasy and it shows snow.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

The riveting tale of my White Christmas

Leave a comment

Behold, the great Arkansas blizzard of 2012!

Behold, the great Arkansas blizzard of 2012!

Good King Wenceslas , who looked out on the feast of Stephen, which, incidentally, is December 26

Good King Wenceslas , who looked out on the feast of Stephen, which, incidentally, is December 26

When I woke up on the morning of December 26, I noticed two things: There was snow on the ground outside and the power was out. Neither of these things surprised me, for they both had been true the night before. When I had fallen asleep on Christmas night, the snow had still been falling, and it was accompanied by heavy winds and unusually colored lightning. That morning, though, the storm had ended and the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.

When I woke up on the morning of December 27, I noticed three things, and they were all the same: cold, cold, cold. These things did not surprise me, for they were a direct result of the aforementioned things from the previous day. The snow was still laying round about, deep and crisp and even, and the power was still out. Due to the loss of furnace power, the temperature in the house had gradually decreased throughout the previous day and a half. According to the thermometer, it was in the low fifties. According to the sensation in my hands and feet, it was negative a gajillion degrees. According to the pragmatic sectors of my brain, it was cold. And there was no coffee, ‘cause the coffee maker runs on electricity.

In true pioneer spirit, we sat around and lamented our lack of internet access and our inability to charge our various electronic devices. Also, I made these lovely protest signs.]

In true pioneer spirit, we sat around and lamented our lack of internet access and our inability to charge our various electronic devices. Also, I made these lovely protest signs.

A few hours later, we fled the house. That is, the trip had already been planned in advance, and our time of departure was fairly close to what it would have been without the effects of the aforementioned things. Our anticipation to see extended family mingled with anticipation to experience warmth and functional light switches.

Sadly, I will presumably not be in my house when the power comes back on, which ruins my plan to celebrate that occasion with a facebook status saying, “Behold, the people sitting in darkness have seen a great light!”

Letter to Santa Claus

Leave a comment

Santa Claus

Dear Santa Claus,

I never really believed in you. As far as I can recall, I always knew that the presents under the tree and even the Christmas stockings came from my parents, just like Thanksgiving dinner and Easter baskets. But I used to believe in all the things you stand for; and I don’t mean that stuff about joy and peace. I mean the idea that happiness comes from the acquisition of material objects, and that Christmas is about getting whatever toys one wants that particular year. Your name gets associated with joy and peace, but that isn’t really the point of you; it isn’t what your image really means in this society.

Christmas TreeIt’s a bit cliché to complain about the commercialization of Christmas, but the point is valid. Stores start stocking Christmas merchandise and advertising their Christmas sales long before Christmas. People feel a need to start thinking about Christmas shopping long before they’re in the mood for Christmas joy and peace. They are preparing for the coming of Santa Claus rather than the coming of Jesus, not only in Advent, but for several of the preceding weeks as well. Any corny Christmas movie will claim that Santa is separate from this commercialism, that he laments it himself, but that’s an utterly pointless discernment. When these movies make that point, they are merely replacing superficial consumerist values with abstract “Christmas Spirit” values. Santa Claus, I hold you partially responsible for both the commercialization of Christmas and the corniness of Christmas. Your message is not one of joy, unless joy is getting a desired toy. Your message is not one of peace, unless peace is getting a Christmas vacation. And you can’t give me what I really want, for Christmas or otherwise, unless what I really want is some trivial material object.

JesusSanta Claus, you brought me some degree of joy when I was little and you filled my family’s living room with toys, and if I have outgrown that childhood Christmas joy, it’s not because of cynicism or a lack of Christmas spirit. It’s because I no longer think that happiness comes from having new dolls or the latest book in a series I like.  I still appreciate and enjoy the aesthetic awesomeness of a lighted Christmas tree with wrapped presents under it, and I still think there’s something exciting about the very nature of gift-giving. And, of course, I like getting new stuff. Getting new stuff is cool. But that’s not the real point of Christmas. In fact, fruitcake and Christmas cookies aren’t the real point, either. As hard as it is for me to admit, even Christmas music and Doctor Who Christmas specials aren’t the real point. Almost any Christmas movie will tell you that the true meaning of Christmas has to do with love and joy and peace and goodwill towards your fellow human beings, but those are all abstract ideas, even if you add a few sentimental things about family. Those are the traits of a happy Santa-Claus-Christmas. Santa Claus offers a trite and superficial kind of Christmas joy. The meaningful and significant kind of Christmas joy doesn’t come from a white-haired man in a red suit with fluffy white trim; it comes from a man who was born in Bethlehem about two thousand years ago. He didn’t come bringing candy that was quickly eaten or toys that were quickly broken; he came bringing forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life. No offense, Santa Claus, but you just can’t compete with that.

Magdalena

P.S. With all that being said, I have been very good this year, and I wouldn’t actually mind if you brought me a whole lot of awesome stuff and if you made my car work again. Thanks, Santa.

Christmas letter

How I Helped Save the World: Doctor Who fan fiction for the apocalypse

Leave a comment

TARDIS

It was the middle of the night, and most of the family was asleep. The house was dark and as quiet as it ever is, but I was still awake because of the fact that the internet exists. My brain had been telling me for a few hours that I should go to sleep, but it hadn’t happened yet. Suddenly, I heard an odd noise. “Is that the TARDIS?” I said to myself. I looked up from the computer screen. There before me was the TARDIS. The door opened and the Doctor emerged. It was the tenth doctor, not necessarily because he’s my favorite, but because I actually haven’t seen that many episodes with Matt Smith. Really, Tom Baker is my favorite, but it wasn’t Tom Baker who was standing there in my sisters’ bedroom. It was David Tennant.

“No time to explain,” said the Doctor. “Come on.”

“Um… What’s going on?” I intelligently asked.

The Doctor“It’s the apocalypse,” The Doctor reminded me. “The solstice is at 4:12 AM in your time zone, and the world is going to end if we don’t do something about it.”

“Oh, that’s right,” I said. “But I thought that the whole apocalypse thing was just a misunderstanding about the Mayan calendar. And that nothing is actually going to happen except that the Mayan calendar is going to end, just like our calendar is going to end at midnight on December 31.”

“Yes, well,” said the Doctor, “That’s true, except that the world really is going to end if we don’t save it. You’d better come with me.”

“Okay,” I said, “but incidentally, why? Don’t you have Rose or Martha or Donna or someone to help you save the world? Not Donna, I hope, ‘cause I don’t like her much. I kind of like Amy, from what I’ve seen of her, and I’m looking forward to seeing episodes with Oswin, because she seems cool. I heard she’s from-”

“It’s Martha,” said the Doctor, “but she’s on vacation right now. That’s why they aren’t televising this. But the world needs to be saved, so I needed to pick up a temporary assistant somewhere. I picked you because my brilliance detector in the TARDIS detected that you, at some point in time, are the most brilliant human in existence.”

I thought for a moment. “I’ll buy that,” I said. “But I think we should bring my sister Nadia, too. She’s brilliant, and she’s totally obsessed with Doctor Who.”

“All right,” said the Doctor. “But hurry! We don’t have much time!”

“HEY, NADIA!” I yelled.

Nadia rolled over, mumbled a reference to an episode that I hadn’t seen, and became motionless again.

“NADIA!” I yelled and shook her a little, but she still didn’t wake up.

The Beautiful Princess

The Beautiful Princess

“MROOOOOWWWWWW!” yelled the cat.

“Beautiful Princess!” Nadia exclaimed, jumping out of bed like a jack-in-the-box.

“She’s up,” I helpfully informed the Doctor.

“Allons-y!” said the Doctor.

“Wait a minute!” I cried.

“What is it?” Nadia asked, already standing at the door of the TARDIS.

“I can’t save the world in these earrings!” I wailed. “Where are my saving-the-world earrings?”

“That’s not important,” Nadia told me. “Come on, let’s go.”

“But these aren’t the right earrings,” I insisted, “and I can’t find the right ones! The world is coming to an end, and I don’t have my- Oh, here they are. All righty, I’m ready. Let’s go.”

So The Doctor, Nadia and I piled into the TARDIS. I beckoned to the Beautiful Princess, but she is a little skittish and doesn’t like entering unfamiliar TARDISes. Technically, every TARDIS is an unfamiliar TARDIS to her. So she stayed in my sisters’ bedroom, and the Doctor closed the TARDIS door.

TARDISIf you think that the interior of the TARDIS looks cool on the TV screen, you should see it in real life. It’s big and shiny and awesome-looking.

“Nice,” I said, but I said it in two syllables because this is Arkansas. Or at least, that’s where we had been. The Doctor was already pressing buttons and pulling levers, and the TARDIS was dematerializing.

“What do you need us to do?” Nadia asked the Doctor.

“Ooh, shiny,” I said, touching shiny stuff.

“DON’T TOUCH THAT!” yelled The Doctor. “It’s a very delicate device with very sensitive components! If you aren’t careful, you could alter the subatomic structure of the transdimensional circuitry, which would result not only in physical harm to you, but also a possible breakdown of the stability of the space-time continuum!”

“Well, sorry,” I said.

“Can we talk about the apocalypse?” Nadia asked. “I want to save the world.”

“Yeah, what’s up with the whole apocalypse thing?” I wanted to know. “I thought that was just some silly internet hype. You know, even the Mayans didn’t think that the end of their calendar meant the end of the world. I thought that’s just something that people on the internet made up because people on the internet like predicting the apocalypse. How can it be real?”

“Because it’s Christmastime,” said the Doctor. “Apocalypses always happen at Christmastime.”

“Are we going to London?” Nadia wanted to know.

“No, I want to go to Central America, where the Mayans are!” I said. “I love Mayans! They’re awesome because they invented baseball. And Incans are awesome because they lived on beautiful mountains and had llamas. And Aztecs are awesome because they discovered chocolate and because they were Aztecs and Aztecs are cool by definition.” I paused briefly for breath. “Also,” I added, “When I was taking World History in high school, I got a perfect score on the quiz the week we did Mayans and Incans and Aztecs.”

“But the apocalypse always starts in London,” Nadia said. “Haven’t you ever watched the Doctor Who Christmas specials?”

“We’re not going to London,” said the Doctor, “We’re going to a spaceship that’s hiding in another set of dimensions, like in Stones of Blood, even though that’s one of the older episodes with Tom Baker.” He used his sonic screwdriver to do something I didn’t understand to the shiny thing that I wasn’t supposed to touch.

“That’s the episode that comes right after my second favorite one,” I helpfully informed everyone.

“Once we’re in the spaceship,” Nadia asked, “what do we do?”

The Doctor“I’m going to go disconnect the stabilizer circuitry in the time-jam generator,” The Doctor explained, “which will cut off the influx of time gravity and keep time on your planet moving forward. That will buy me enough time to sneak into the control room and reprogram the transdimensional navigation system circuitry for the apocalyptic explosives. Then we run back to the TARDIS and dematerialize quickly before the spaceship sinks into our set of dimensions, falls into the black timehole it created to destroy the Earth, explodes, and bursts into anti-time-gravity flames, which will neutralize the black timehole.” He seemed to be building the shiny thing I wasn’t supposed to touch into the TARDIS control panel.

“Okay,” I said, “I totally didn’t get any of that, but now I have another question. While you’re doing all of that science-fictiony stuff, what are Nadia and I supposed to do?”

“Take these,” said the Doctor, handing us each a thing that appeared to be a Nerf gun, “and shoot any Griggerumps you see.”

“That I can understand,” I said, “except just one thing. What’s a Griggerump?”

“They’re purplish greenish lizardy things with five heads, six feet, a few tusks, and an antler or two,” said the Doctor. “You’ll recognize them when you see them.”

“Why couldn’t we just have daleks?” I grumbled. “I already know exactly what daleks look like.”

The TARDIS rematerialized forcefully, and Nadia and I both stumbled for a moment before catching our balance. Loud, disturbing noises came from the TARDIS console.

“WHAT’S THAT?” I wondered.

“THE TRANSDIMENSIONAL NAVIGATOR IS MALFUNCTIONING!” Nadia explained. “WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO HURRY SO WE CAN GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE IT STOPS WORKING ALTOGETHER, OR ELSE WE’LL BE STUCK HERE UNTIL WE BLOW UP IN THE BLACK TIMEHOLE!”

“Why do these things always make sense to her?” I complained. But nobody heard me because I wasn’t talking in caps lock.

We left the TARDIS and found ourselves in a long, white, featureless hallway with numerous black doors and a funny chemical smell. The Doctor hurried off to find the control room, while Nadia explained to me that it was vitally important that we guard the TARDIS because the Griggerumps were searching for it because the Doctor had stolen the transdimensional navigator from their scout ship down on the planet’s surface. More specifically, it was in London. The Doctor had uncovered their plot, snitched the transdimensional navigator, and linked it to the TARDIS’s controls so that he could use it to get to the set of dimensions where the mothership was. That’s where we were now, Nadia told me, and if the Griggerumps discovered us, we couldn’t let them get the TARDIS. They could take it apart to get replacement parts for all the stuff the Doctor was sabotaging in their own ship.

“Plot hole!” I pointed out. “It shouldn’t be possible for you to explain this stuff to me. You don’t have any way of knowing it.”

“I was being observant and clever,” said Nadia, “while you were looking for your earrings and talking about Mayans.”

Suddenly, a Griggerump popped up out of nowhere. Nadia and I both shot at it and it died, but by that time, we were surrounded by a bajillion others.

“OW!” I yelled.

“Did they get you?” Nadia asked as she shot frantically.

“No,” I said, “I stubbed my toe on the TARDIS.”

“ONE GOT PAST YOU!” yelled Nadia.

I whirled around, and sure enough, there was a Griggerump slithering into the TARDIS.

“I MUST STOP IT!” I shrieked, and dived headfirst into the TARDIS behind it, cleverly dropping my Nerf gun as I did so.

The Griggerump was already halfway to the TARDIS console. I grabbed it by an antler and a tusk and pulled with all of my strength, which happened to be significantly less than all of its strength. It made an annoyed hissing noise and slobbered disgustingly on my hands. The slobber was slightly acidic and stung a little. That was probably mostly because of my dry skin. I really wished I’d put hand lotion on my hands before we’d left. I regretted having almost lost my saving-the-world earrings. If I was as brilliant as the TARDIS thought, I’d have already been wearing them, which would have saved me some time.

With a silly whimpering noise, the Griggerump died, and I realized that Nadia had just shot it as she and the Doctor ran back into the TARDIS. Nadia slammed the door and the Doctor hurried to the console and pressed a few buttons.  The TARDIS dematerialized with that lovely familiar sound which is even more reassuring in real life than it is on TV.

“Ew, look at my hands,” I said. The Griggerump slobber was a funny puce color. “Do you have a sink where I can wash them?”

“Wait until we get back home,” Nadia suggested.

“But I want to give you a high-five!” I said.

Minutes later, we were back in Nadia’s bedroom, and we went back to sleep with the satisfaction of having done our part to help the Doctor save the world from the Mayan apocalypse.

I think we’re going to bake some apocalypse cookies this afternoon.

Let the Fruitcake Jokes Begin

5 Comments

Last Year's Fruitcake

Last Year’s Fruitcake

I have a confession to make. A couple days ago, I made a fruitcake. Two fruitcakes, actually. I got a bowl and I filled it with flour, brown sugar, white sugar, baking powder, baking soda, various spices, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, a little milk, some almond extract, chopped apples, chopped walnuts, and assorted candied fruits, all in relatively arbitrary quantities. Then I poured the whole conglomeration into two greased bread pans and stuck them in a hot oven for a while. Voila, fruitcake. Lest ye think that I am a heinous evildoer for inflicting fruitcake upon an already troubled world, I shall explain my motives.

This Year's Fruitcake

This Year’s Fruitcake

1. I was making supper. Most of the family was out at a Christmas party, so there were just a few of us there to eat supper, and I was therefore supposed to do something quick and simple. The benefit of quick-and-simple cooking, obviously, is that it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, but the downside is that it just isn’t fun. Real cooking is when you have multiple pots on the stove, cutting boards on the counter, and mixing bowls in your hand. Real cooking means juggling several different elements of the meal, constantly doing math in your head, and carefully timing every move you make so that nothing burns and everything is ready at more or less the same time. The fact of the matter is that, after three and a half years in college without access to a kitchen, I am no longer proficient at that kind of cooking, and quick-and-simple is the only kind of meal that’s likely to turn out well. But it’s just so boring to only have one pot on the stove, so it was necessary that I have some other project taking place on the counter.

2. We still had candied fruit from last year. I was actually a little skeptical that it was still good to use, but my mother said it would be fine, and, as far as I can tell, she was right about that. At any rate, we certainly couldn’t let that candied fruit go to waste, could we? Of course, last year’s fruitcake was the reason that we had leftover candied fruit, and at the time, I bought it especially for a fruitcake, so I couldn’t have used this motive to justify last year’s fruitcake.

3. Fruitcake jokes are, as a general rule, hilarious. I don’t know why, but they are. I have heard that Johnny Carson is the exemplary fruitcake-joke-maker, and that his theory states that there is only one fruitcake in the world that just keeps getting passed around and around as a Christmas gift and never eaten. Just like that fruitcake, fruitcake jokes are exactly the same every time, but they’re always funny.

4. I like fruitcake. Yes, really. Apparently, so do other people in my family, because my fruitcakes do get eaten.

So there you have it. I admit that I made a fruitcake, and furthermore, I think I’m going to do it again later this week.

Why I Don’t Think “Go Tell It on the Mountain” Is an Awesome Christmas Hymn

Leave a comment

A lovely mountain in New Zealand

A lovely mountain in New Zealand

Don’t get me wrong; I really love Christmas music, but there are a few Christmas songs in particular that just annoy me. The two that come to mind specifically are “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain”. In both cases, I think that the main reason I don’t like them is that, as a child, I was forced to sing them a few too many times when I would have much preferred to sing something like “Savior of the Nations Come”, which was always a favorite of mine. You know, something with Jesus in it. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” never even mentions Jesus. The first time I had to sing it in Sunday School, I had no idea what it had to do with Christmas or Advent or God. (Fun fact: it was written in 1962 and probably actually alludes to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I’m not even making that up.) I still hold to my little-kid opinion that a song isn’t really church music if it doesn’t have Jesus in it. Granted, the song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is the only pseudo-religious Christmas song I can think of offhand that doesn’t mention Jesus at all, but an awful  lot of Christmas favorites are much more shallow than the awesomest of the hymns in the hymnal.

Baby JesusI mean, where’s the cross in hymns like “Away in a Manger” or “Silent Night”? Where’s the law and gospel; where’s the part that tells about what cute little Baby Jesus did when he grew up? As certain English professors would say, where’s the “so-what”? “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” are beautiful songs, and maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about them, given the fact that my sisters and I had a good time singing them all the way to and from church on Wednesday night. (But that was just because my sisters didn’t know the words to “Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People” and I didn’t know the Christmas song they like that’s either in Spanish or Portuguese, they can’t remember which one.)Christmas carols, even shallow and/or secular ones, are perfectly valid ways of enjoying the holiday season. I’m just sayin’, you don’t really appreciate the awesomeness of Jesus’ birth unless you keep in mind that he grew up and lived a sinless life and died for the sins of the world and rose again from the dead.  Only a few favorite Christmas carols have all that in them.

From "The Sound of Music"

From “The Sound of Music”

“Go Tell it on the Mountain” technically isn’t any worse than certain other Christmas hymns that I actually do like. In fact, I just checked and it even has the word “salvation” in it, and the word “salvation” is a good sign. It’s just that you have to get through an awful lot of lines about the mountain before you get to the salvation line, and after that, you’re back to singing about the mountain again. Not only does this song not bring to mind the cross for me, it doesn’t even bring the manger to mind. All I think about is that scene at the end of “The Sound of Music” with the song “Climb Every Mountain.” That’s another example of a beautiful song that doesn’t have Jesus in it and consequently isn’t good church music. (Fortunately, to the best of my knowledge, no one has argued that it is.)

Good FridayThis is what I have to say about that song: Go tell what on the mountain? “Jesus Christ is born” is a good message, but you don’t want the “Jesus Christ” part to be overshadowed by the “Go tell it on the mountain” part. I have the same complaint against the principle that the sole goal of the church is to recruit new members. That’s technically true; evangelism is of the utmost importance, but it’s important to remember that the word “evangelism” means “good news” and that attracting people to the church building isn’t really evangelism unless they’re hearing that good news there. If I was visiting an unfamiliar church and heard a sermon that was just about the importance of evangelism, I’d feel like I had accidentally walked into a meeting of the advertising department in a business. I probably wouldn’t be interested in coming back again. For the benefit of non-Christian visitors, Christian visitors, and members alike, church should be more about what we believe (that Jesus died to pay for our sins) than about what we’re going to do to persuade more people to come to our church. Faith comes from hearing the Word, so the Word is what people should be hearing.

Maybe it’s a bit unfair to hold all that against a cute little children’s Christmas song like “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” But think of it this way: Martin Luther’s idea of a cute little children’s Christmas song was “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”, which is all about Jesus and the incarnation and salvation. Twentieth and twenty-first century little children are just as capable as sixteenth century little children of understanding and liking hymns with some depth and substance to them. I can say this based upon personal experience, for I used to be a little child myself in the not-so-distant past. ‘Twas in those aforementioned days when I was saddened by the fact that grownups thought I should be singing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” when there were other hymns I liked better.

If you want to sing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” this Christmas season, go ahead. It’s not an evil song. In fact, it’s certainly better, both in terms of religious significance and in terms of aesthetic coolness, than a lot of Christmas songs I could name.  But don’t forget that Christmas is about more than images of mountains and/or Baby Jesus; it’s about the God who became human and died on the cross for us.

Merry Christmas

Older Entries