Any other year, when I mention thinking about Christmas music starting around September, people look at me like I am crazy (unless I am hanging out with other church musicians). But this year, I have friends who put up their Christmas tree on Election Day to distract themselves, and others who have been playing Christmas music for weeks now. Others yet said they’re waiting until the second Thanksgiving is over (which makes you not even that far off liturgically, since Advent 1 is November 29th this year!). Maybe you’re one of those people starting early, or maybe you are in the camp of ushering in the season at the appropriate and right time.
But these aren’t the regular times, are they? I personally started listening to “Lessons & Carols from King’s College” (which I usually save for the week leading up to Christmas) this week, which any other year would feel blasphemous, weeks before Advent even begins. In the last weeks, I have revised our Advent/Lessons & Carols/Christmas music plans completely several times, as I watched COVID numbers climb higher and higher and heard from my parents in Germany who just began their second lockdown. What I ended up with are hymns and anthems we all know (with the exception of one new, simple anthem), so familiar you could probably all join the choir and record them with us (Did you really think I’d stop recruiting, even in a pandemic? Nah.). There will be nothing fancy or impressive, not only because of Coronaesque time and space constraints for the choir, but also because in a year where so much has been stripped away, we need music that is familiar and comforting. As the carol goes, “tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy!”
I hope in these days, you find comfort and joy, be it through connection over a screen, phone, or a stroll or conversation outside. May you find comfort in hymns you know well. May you find joy as Christmas lights start to go up. May you give comfort when you see others struggling, and may you find comfort if the holidays are a hard time for you. In a world upside down, let us look to the comfort and joy we hear proclaimed in the message of Christmas – “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
Comfort, comfort now my people; tell of peace!” so says our God.ELW 256
Comfort those who sit in darkness mourning under sorrow’s load.
To God’s people now proclaim that God’s pardon waits for them!
Tell them that their war is over; God will reign in peace forever.