Getting Ready for Christmas Day

Back in April, Paul Simon released a new album called So Beautiful, So What. The opening song on the album is “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” a 4 minute and 6 second long meditation on the many things that weigh us down and make us long for the liberation of Christ’s coming. Interspersed throughout the song is a clip from a sermon by Rev. J. M. Gates. Gates lists the world’s ills and longs for Christmas Day in a throbbing cadence that is mirrored by the pulsating lead guitar fading in and out incessantly throughout the song.

We’re getting ready. Oh, we’re getting ready for the power and the glory and the story of the Christmas Day.

As I said, the album was released in April, and at the time, I thought it odd that the album began with a song about Christmas. The more I listened throughout the year though, the more it made sense. Simon’s lyrics explicitly divorce Christmas from presents and parties and other material pursuits. Christmas is about joy and peace, the kind of joy that Paul Simon wishes the necessity of playing Santa by buying lots of things didn’t chase away, the peace that his “nephew in Iraq” on his “third time back” longs for as he eats “turkey dinner on some mountain top in Pakistan.” If I’m honest and take the time to realize it, I long for that joy and peace constantly.

Christmas is coming soon. I know because my Facebook feed is full of people bemoaning the fact that stores are already putting out their holiday decorations. Many of my friends post with passion that they are planning on celebrating Thanksgiving first, thankyouverymuch, and the stores can just de-shelve all that red and green until after Turkey Day. “Christmas? Already? Please no!” they exclaim.

How tragic. Christmas should be stand on tip-toes looked forward to. I find it very sad that we have so confused shopping and the Season that the signs of Advent’s advent make us shudder. I agree with my many fervent friends that November 1 is too early to begin thinking about what to buy, but I also think it is always too early for those thoughts, and especially if they distract from the joy and peace that Christ’s coming guaranteed.

I’m looking forward to Christmas this year with more excitement than I have in many years. I’m going back to Texas for a substantial amount of time for the first time since last Christmas. My brother is getting married to an amazing girl I’m thrilled to get to call “sister.” I’m going to backpack with my best friends. I’m going to meet the newest addition to another couple-friend’s family. I’m going to have breakfast with another couple of friends in a city none of us live in. I’m going to worship with my church family. I’m going to hug my little sisters. I’m going to see how tall my youngest brother has grown. I’m going to kiss my grandmother, make fun of my grandfather, and pray with my parents. I’m going to rest and break bread and thank God for a great year as a new year dawns full of possibility and hope, all made possible because Christ came.

I’m getting ready. Oh, I’m getting ready for the power and the glory and the story of the Christmas Day.

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