How to Have a Spiritual Christmas: Shut up and sing
We’re a couple weeks from Christmas, and in the thick of what most people feel is a hectic holiday maze.…
We’re a couple weeks from Christmas, and in the thick of what most people feel is a hectic holiday maze. The parties and pace, anxiety from family and finances, along with a rise in stress level and body weight – it’s a strained time for many.
But maybe you’re like me and you love this time of year anyway. Or you want to. Let me share just two personal practices that I have found add a lot more joy and depth to Advent and Christmas for me. I hope they help you too, so instead of being drained by this season you can draw strength from it.
Here is the first:
It’s a noisy time, and our brains and bodies need to pull back and sit still. There will be more to do always – cookies, and cards, and shopping, and year end finances.
But as my daughter likes to tell me, “Calm down.” Just shush yourself for a bit. Carve out a few moments for unruffled reflection without having to be someplace, do something, or buy something.
Imagine the night of Jesus’ birth, when God the Father used the calming voice and hands of Mary to wrap and hold the wriggling infant until he rested at peace. This is what each of us needs. Rest in the Father’s care for a few moments until you stop squirming. Get yourself into some swaddling clothes which force you to sit still.
For me, I love to take lingering moments in the shower, or extra time in the morning. Some will go for a walk in the dark. Last night it was the recliner by the Christmas tree, in front of the fire for me. I read from Luke 2 and an advent devotional, and listened to Josh Garrels’ “Light Came Down” Christmas album which is amazing. Mountain posts a weekly Advent Devotional which you can find here.
Find some place and time to be still long enough so that the silt in your soul can begin to settle. Put the phone down. Turn off the TV. Let your heart long for God. Pray without using any words as you stare out the window. Open your life to the Light and Peace of Jesus.
“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.” The best gifts from God come quietly.
This weekend at Mountain we will sing the Hallelujah Chorus. It’s big, loud finish brings me to tears. At Celebrate the Light recently we ended with O Holy Night and fireworks! It was amazing as I felt like I was witnessing the angelic announcement!
But I have found that besides these big moments, God seems to come closer in the quiet. It’s not in the earthquake, wind or fire, but the still small voice, which is hard to hear over the noise of Christmas.
Like a skittish deer, running away at loud sounds, our own souls are hesitant to be coaxed out of the woods until we sit still and wait for a while in hushed stillness. In the quiet, our souls tiptoe out of hiding into the open space. When I am still, it creates a space where the God of quiet and my own soul sometimes meet.
Pay attention to good Christmas music
Listen to it. Sing it. Let it lift your soul. Let the words sink in and affect you.
I am not talking about Frosty the Snowman or Jingle Bells. I mean the classic Christmas carols, which are essentially hymns. I mean music which is written to focus our heads and hearts on Jesus.
I love all kinds of Christmas music. My kids will tell you one tradition at our house is that on Christmas morning I play Winter Wonderland by Jason Mraz on repeat over and over and over. Try it! You’ll like it! Even if they protest that they’re sick of it, they don’t mean it. Let it play until you can sing along with every word!
But we need more than that. Scripture shows us there is music everywhere in the first Christmas, from the angels singing loudly in the sky as they announced his birth to shepherds, to Mary singing in response to her own amazing news. And fittingly, there is so much incredible Christmas music – new and old – which probes the mysteries of God coming among us and what it means for us.
So make time to listen to it. And really LISTEN. The words have depth and its poetic refrains will touch deep places with truth.
When Mary heard the miracle of what God was up to, Luke says she pondered these things in her heart. We would do well to ponder in our hearts the same mysteries as they come to us in the Christmas carols.
I fear too many of us are not soaking up the power and beauty of the amazing impact of Jesus’ coming, because we have settled only for the shallow holiday music. Deck the Halls and We Wish You a Merry Christmas are fun traditions. But they won’t feed your soul.
If you’re a Christ follower, be sure you immerse yourself in some of the good stuff.
If you don’t have Mountain’s Worship Arts Colors of Christmas CD you can grab it here. It’s beautiful.
Think about how much space there is in your life for Jesus as you sing let every heart prepare him room in “Joy to the World.”
Consider the tragic global news in our world, and the pain in Aleppo while you let your soul long for the truth of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
The depth and truth of some carols provide exactly what our scattered souls desire. Some of my favorites are “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day”.
You can find your own favorites. Sing them with your mind engaged. Be intentional about Christmas music – old style and contemporary.
You and I are created to join the angelic refrain, “Glory to God in the Highest” – and whether you are musical or not, you will find good Christmas music can help you do it.