Oh my friends I’ve Begun to worry right
Where I should be grateful I should be satisfied
Oh my heart I Would clap and dance in place
With my friends I have so Much pleasure to embrace
But my heart is Returned to sister winter
But my heart is As cold as ice
One of my favorite songs/Christmas songs is Sufjan Steven’s Sister Winter. I remember buying this album on CD when it first came out 2006. We had a ski trip that had been delayed by weather, so it ended up starting on New Year’s Day instead of New Year’s Eve. Because of that delay and our early departure on New Year’s Day, I had a car full of sleepy, probably hungover people. I wasn’t too concerned because I had several CDs of Sufjan and some peace and quiet. What an album! What a mix of redone Christmas classics, quirky new personal songs and then a few that cut to my heart.
In the midst of so much HAPPY, there is always sad, isn’t there? They’re intertwined. They’re interwoven. I can see it in my congregation at City Pres.
Friends finish a semester on a high note, relieved to be done. Friends welcome the birth of a new baby. Friends go on vacations and visit family. Friends get to sigh with relief that they have time off. Friends attend spectacularly fun Christmas parties. Friends get to see Star Wars on opening day. Friends get great football match ups soon. Friends get the joy of comments about their cute kids when they post their adorable pictures. Friends finally sell their house.
And yet –
Friends aren’t sure who to tell about their miscarriage. Friends remember the one-year anniversary of the unexpected death of their mom. Friends attend funerals. Friends do not get to celebrate the birthdays of others. Friends turn 30 without being married. Friends go home to dysfunctional families. Friends recall pasts joys without many present ones. Friends are stuck, addicted, looking ahead to a bleak winter.
Sujfan sings an apology to his friends. He says he’s sorry for showing up and bringing so much gloomy, dark, winter sadness. He wishes them the best, but isn’t sure if he should share how he really feels or not. Do they want it? Shall he put on a holly, jolly happy face?
At City Pres we talk a lot about sharing our poverty and entering into the mess and sadness with each other. I don’t want to put those on people. I want people to be truly free with that joyful freedom that everyone can sense. I want happiness, joy, smiles, thankfulness, gratefulness, goodness, beauty, love, certainty, faith and hope. I want us to rejoice when we sing Joy to the Word. I want us to embrace the Incarnation of Christ when we sing Silent Night and Away in a Manger. I want us to marvel at the shepherds when we sing Glory in Excelsia Deo.
But there is also the Little Drummer Boy in all of us. We’re unsure if what we have will be anything really. I’ve never thought the little boy was ever an exceptionally good drummer. He’s a little kid. He’s a hack. He’s probably not playing on time or in rhythm. Should he play?
We often think we should just stay away when we’re aware of our meager gift, our lack of proficiency, our unhelpful contribution, our Sister Winter day/week/month/year/life/heart. Yet Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit. He says blessed are those who mourn. He says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
May we bring what we have – and see God’s joy in receiving us – all of us – this Christmas.