Have Yourself a Poignant Little Christmas
Several years after my Mom passed away in 1990 … still trying to come to peace with her passing … I made my way to Christmas Eve mass at our local Catholic church. I had been away from the church for a long while and I didn’t find much solace there, but it says a lot about my experience of Christmas. It is a many layered thing embodying the dark and the light of sixty-nine years of this life. And that makes sense to me because, from any perspective, the joy of Christmas is both multiplied and tempered by its poignancy. After all, that baby in the manger may be to many the Savior, but he is also destined for a short and difficult life. He may bring for some the promise of eternity but it is at the cost of his agony on the cross. Every child has anticipated the Big Morning only to have his impossible dreams disappointed by what’s under the tree. We’ve each had Christmases touched with pain, pain diminished but never quite forgotten in the best of years. Loved ones no longer present speak to us as we sit quietly by the tree and in the voices of their survivors. Words like poignancy and melancholy blend with merry and joy to create an occasion with texture like no other.
It’s reflected in our Christmas music. Think about the nostalgia of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas (just like the ones I used to know)
and the spiritual joy of O Holy Night:
Listen to the nostalgic imagery of The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
and notice the child-like optimism of the Beach Boys’ Little Saint Nick:
And perhaps there is no song more poignant than Sara McLachlan’s lament for a love lost in Wintersong:
On this Christmas Eve, may the poignant memories of Christmases past remind you to be mindful of the joys of Christmases present.