I love so very many Christmas songs that I was having some trouble deciding which would work for this week. As seems to happen, though, once I started paying attention, I realized this one was often on my heart the past several days.
It was finals week here in the Land of Pilgrims, which is never a bundle of joy. Compared to other semesters I’ve had, this wasn’t all that bad, but the comparison does little to soften the reality of papers, tests, grading, and the day-to-day living that exists alongside works, school, and Advent itself. I had to fail a third of my students this semester, and while I know that it was justified, it breaks my heart nonetheless. I just emailed my last paper to a professor, and it’s crap, because I didn’t give it the time it needed or deserved—-I didn’t have it. Not that I didn’t have it in the abstract, because I took time to be human this week and invite friends over for a dinner I made (which is a feat, because I’m a terrible cook; my skill is baking). I watched a movie after my Latin final. I went running. I did all of the things that were necessary to keep me in some semblance of sanity, and my paper was pushed to the end of the list.
Lots of things were pushed to the end of the list. And lots of things were added to the list; Interpreter posited a possible path in this Call mess that has wound me up far more than it has any right to, a friend of mine is freaking out about her own life path being less than clear, my father is facing yet another bout of unemployment after the holidays, and I’m already overriding my own vacation time in an effort to do everything, see everyone, live every moment that I couldn’t while I was studying for that test and writing those papers.
And into this mess that I create, I hear this song. “Let nothing you dismay,” it says, and I say that you have no idea what dismays me right now. “Remember, Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all,” it insists, and I close my eyes and think of all the moments when I’ve been saved this week alone.
On Sunday I read part of the liturgy for one of the services. I’ve never read liturgy in a real service before. I was terrified that I would screw up somehow, because that’s who I am and how I think. And things did go wrong; one of the mikes had feedback issues, and my reading partner and I were a bit awkward because we were making up the rhythm as we went along. But it was good liturgy, and right and true, and it happened and the service went along because my reading skills can’t stand in the way of God’s ability to reach His people.
Last night, I made cookies for choir rehearsal because when I’m totally stressed out, I bake. (Oh, the amount of things I’ve made this week boggles the mind…) I worried there wouldn’t be enough, and I realized as I was on my way that I may have left the oven on in my house. I had neither the gas nor the time to turn around to check, and it was just one of the final straws of the week. “Lord,” I prayed, “if You could make the cookies last and my house not burn down, I can get the rest. I just can’t take those as well right now.”
There were plenty of cookies, and people loved them, and there were even some left over (yeah, take that one to the Scriptures). And I had indeed left my oven on, but it just made the house very warm when I returned; opening a window into the windy December night fixed that well enough. “‘Fear not then,’ said the Angel, ‘Let nothing you affright.'”
So much affrights me, not least the things that have nothing to do with the external. Yet this song, sometimes in very trippy versions, claims Christ came “to save us all from Satan’s power.” I don’t believe that some guy with horns and a pitchfork spends his days plotting to make our lives miserable, but I do believe that there is a darkness that can grab hold of us where we are most vulnerable, hold us under the water of the things that frighten us, that worry us about ourselves and those around us. This has, for a multitude of reasons, been a real problem for me this week, and this song—-this song dares to say that I can rest in God, gentleman or no, because Christ came for me, for me. He came for you, too, and you, and you, and you also; to save us all when the going gets tough and the darkness come quietly across the snow. Tidings of comfort and joy indeed.
And the messenger said to them, “Fear not, for lo, I bring you good news of great joy, that shall be to all the people — because there was born to you to-day a Saviour — who is Christ the Lord — in the city of David.” (Luke 2:10-11, YLT)