When singer Amy Grant released “Tennessee Christmas” in 2016 it’d been years since she recorded a holiday collection. In fact, her platinum-level “A Christmas Album” arrived way back in 1983; her triple-platinum “Home for Christmas” in 1992. “Tennessee Christmas” didn’t achieve platinum, gold, or anything else for that matter. As my brother said at the time, “She never should’ve done it.” He’s right. Amy should’ve released just “I Need a Silent Night” and called it good.
Amy Grant can still pen lyrics (even if her voice isn’t as strong as it used to be). “I Need a Silent Night” asks us to find the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of the inevitable commercial distractions. Instead of “December traffic” and “Christmas rush” and “Shopping and buying and standing forever in line”, Amy asks:
I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
As if we’ve been granted Amy’s wish (ha), this season has been remarkably placid. The message of Advent is always “prepare” and that’s what we’re doing. It’s just – unlike most years – we’re not using words like “rush” and “chaos”. We’re experiencing more of a “silent night” instead.
Our Christmas prep never begins until after Thanksgiving (I stand on holiday principles here) but by the following Saturday I was eagerly unpacking the decorations and streaming holiday tunes. More importantly, I also found myself saying “yes” to just about every reason for the season:
- Since we can’t have in-person services our church offered Advent wreaths to build and display in whatever room you “go to church” in at home. We asked for a wreath as soon as they were available.
- A family involved in our local 4-H advertised festive bags of scented pine cones as a fundraiser for their activities. We bought two bags and they delivered them straight to our door. There’s nothing that says “Christmas” like the tiny voice of a five-year-old saying, “Thank you, Mr. Wilson!”
- Our church set up a virtual giving tree where you can pick presents from a list, buy them, and return them to the church for distribution to needy families. I bought six.
- We’ve been baking up a kitchen storm so we decided to put together plates of cookies for our neighbors and deliver them. Front doors were opened cautiously, to which we said, “Well, this may be the only chance we get to see you face-to-face this year. Merry Christmas!”
- We’ll be having drive-in Christmas Eve services this year so our church put out a big bin of ornaments, asking us to decorate them and put them on trees surrounding the parking lot. I grabbed several.
- Starbucks moves to Christmas drinks and goodies shortly after Halloween. There’s this unspoken opportunity to “pay it backwards” by taking care of the car behind you in the drive-thru, and then speeding off to remain anonymous. I’ve been doing this for weeks.
- Colorado Springs advertises a Christmas For Kids effort where you’re assigned a needy child’s Christmas list. You buy the gifts, wrap them up, and pass them on to case workers who make sure the kids get them in time for Christmas. I sponsored two.
Most of these Christmastime gestures (and why should they only happen at Christmas, right?) would not find room in our “normal years”. We’d be rushing about trying to find one last gift, throwing up Christmas lights and decorations, and hastily preparing our cards to put in the mail. We’d be wrapping presents ’til well past midnight on Christmas Eve. Yet this year we’re completely organized and ready, including all those meaningful extras I mentioned above.
Let me “wrap” (ha) with one more holiday task we completed earlier than usual: decorating our tree. Christmas trees must’ve been in high demand (or short supply) this year because our local lot only had one left in the 10′-12′ range we prefer. It’s tall and thin (kind of like you see in Whoville in the original “Grinch” movie). It’s so tall our angel at the top seems poised in the heavens, which is wonderfully appropriate this year. She was the only decor on the tree all of last Sunday before we added everything else the following night. So now our tree boasts the usual organized chaos of lights and ornaments. But it’s only the angel I see. She’s watching over us and giving us exactly what we need this year: a silent night, a holy night.
This post is in memory of Marion.