As we enter the season of Lent once again, the cross of ashes on our foreheads and the pangs of hunger in our bellies remind us that we are dust and unto dust we shall return, so we must learn to hunger for God alone—to rely not on our own strength or powers of self-mastery, but to beg humbly for the graces that enable us to carry our crosses daily in imitation of Jesus Christ.
Editorial Note: As our gift to you this Christmas, we've curated a Spotify playlist as a way of entering more deeply through music into the mystery of the Incarnation. You can learn more about this music in this Church Life Journal article.
All around the world this Christmas season, Christians will be raising their voices in joyous praise, singing carols both old and new. Christmas music is unique in the liturgical music canon, because it becomes imprinted with the joys and sorrows of each holiday season; every year, there are carols that will never fail to bring a smile, but there are also carols that can pierce the heart by conjuring up memories of Christmases past or of loved ones long deceased. The beautiful thing is, the mystery of Christmas itself is capacious enough to hold all of it—the unbridled joy, the weariness, the uncertainty, even the sorrow, for all of these are found in the Gospel narratives of Christ’s birth.
Advent and Christmas have always held a particular meaning to me depending on the season and space of my life; the way I’ve internalized their meaning changes depending on who and where I am at the time. I’ve been a mother for 13 Christmases now. For the majority of that time, Advent and Christmas have been about making the season magical for my kids in that sparkly, sugar-dusted-self-defeating sort of way. Where puffs of flour appear in the air each time someone opens our door and our calendar is color coded and overloaded. Of course, all this magic-making inevitably stresses me out beyond the point of no return, negating the very magic I try to create. Sure, it’s also been about helping my children come to learn about the salvific birth of our Lord, who came to save the world, teach us to love, and lead us to heaven, and I think (largely thanks to their amazing teachers) they get that. But all of this magic-making has, slowly but surely over the last 13 years, replaced my own grasp of what this season is supposed to be for me.
On the feast of St. Nicholas, it’s customary among Christians to give gifts to loved ones, in anticipation of the greater gift-giving to come at Christmas, and to honor the Myran bishop and his unfailing generosity to those in need.
As our gift this year, I’d like to share a playlist I curated several Advents ago, featuring music to mark this beautiful season.
Our newborn son cried out with terror in the hospital. In order to run a test, they needed to obtain a vial of blood. They couldn’t find a vein. So, they continued to poke him here and there and, at least to his limited experience of the world, everywhere.