Welcome to Monday Mix Tape, in which I pretend I'm Ira Glass. You know, I choose a theme and share with you several variations on the theme from the worlds of art, faith and culture. To keep up the fun little facade of making a weekly mix tape, I label each of these finds as "track 1", "track 2", and so on (and just like the stack of mixtapes you've got hidden in a box in your attic, you never know when you might see some love song from Journey or Lionel Richie show up here). We're in the second week of Christmastide (or as our worship pastor called it during our Lessons & Carols serviceyesterday, "Our last gasp of Christmas".) Just as in the four weeks of Advent, I am sharing some of the ways my family has been trying to step out of our own tyranny of the urgent and step into the alternate universe of kingdom time. What's important to us is that when we turn the liturgical page to Epiphany, we can look back to the previous six weeks and know that we've been immersed, made new again, in an ancient-living river of spiritual practice and Scriptural truth. Looked at as an ever-flowing -- from one generation-to-the-next -- stream, life takes on deeper meaning. We feel more solid, less tossed to and fro by marketing trends (both inside and outside the church walls). In short, we don't need to jump out of the Christmas pool (or as I've heard it recently, "de-Christmas") as much as just keep on swimming!
Won't you join us in this counter-cultural, counter-consumeristic, counter-Church-as-therapy, counter-instant gratification, counter-mass media experiment?
track 1: visual art
Rembrandt, Simeon and Hannah [Anna] in the Temple
Ever since I chose Anna the prophetess as a theme for the Advent devotional piece I submitted to Christ Church, I've been pondering this work by Rembrandt. I'll share more images later this week, as well as the piece I wrote. I am captured by the look of delighted surprise Rembrandt captures on Anna's face. It's that moment of discovery that we occasionally encounter; the moment we have physical evidence that there is, indeed, a promise-keeping God sitting on the throne. More to say later this week....
track 2: music
I've been saving this playlist for the past five weeks to share with you as a mid-Christmastide gift! I picked this CD up at the library a few weeks before Christmas and it became a family favorite that we're playing just as much now as we did before Christmas. May I recommend on a few of the tracks that you listen with a light heart and refuse to take too seriously? I promise that will be the best way to enjoy this album. I've told you how I feel about the song In the Bleak Midwinter, yes? The Blind Boys, along with the help of Chrissie Hynde (the Pretenders), manage the song with a very different, but still extremely enjoyable. All the tracks are fun, joyful, sing-along-without-realizing-it fun, but none surpass the longstanding blues-funk-gospel group's rendition of Go Tell It On the Mountain. Who'd have guessed Tom Waits would be the secret weapon to belt out a familiar, often cheesed-up Christmas carol in a way that feels genuinely good-newsworthy? By the way, it may be time to say again that I am a complete sucker for artistic collaboration.
track 3: video
Here's a live video of the Boys singing Go Tell It On the Mountain (unfortunately, without Tom Waits)
Go ahead and crank up the volume. I dare you to be bored with Christmas after you listen....
track 4: links
Top 12 Reasons I Love the Season (part 1); Top 12 Reasons I Love the Season (part 2) : My dear friend and soon-to-be sister-in-law (!), Macia, wrote these two posts for me last year. She is easily the most spirited celebrator of Christmas I know. You might argue that it'd be better to re-post these before Christmas, to shoo away the scrooges lurking the internet. I would respond that what with all the comments about "de-Christmasing" I've seen, this is the better time.
Matters of Perspective: Also, this lovely piece written by Margie Haack over at the Art House America blog. Take your time reading through her train of thought and you'll be rewarded with a lovely reflection on Anna the prophetess
"Now you must not think that Christmas, being over, the season and its glories are at an end for in this house there is kept up the full custom of the Twelve Days so that Twelfth Day, the Epiphany still has to its inhabitants its full and ancient meaning as it had when Shakespeare wrote. The green is kept in its place in every room and not a leaf of it must be moved until Epiphany morning. But on the other hand not a leaf of it must remain, nor the Christmas tree, either, by Epiphany evening. It is all taken out and burned in a special little compass reserved for these good trees which have done their good Christmas duty....bearing witness to the holy vitality of unbroken ritual and inherited things....
This which I have just described is not in a novel or in a play. It is real and goes on as the ordinary habit of living men and women. I fear that set down thus in our terribly changing times it must sound very strange...but to those who practice it, it is not only sacred but normal; having in the whole of the complicated affair a sacramental quality and having an effect of benedicition not to be despised. Indeed, modern men who lack such things lack sustenance and our fathers who founded all those ritual observances were very wise. Man has a body as well as a soul and the whole of man, soul and body, is nourished samely by a multiplicity of observed traditional things." (excerpt from "A Remaining Christmas", Hilaire Belloc)