Michael Buble. Mariah Carey. Hi-5.
We’ve all got our go-to Christmas songs. Whether we’re driving around with the kids looking at Christmas lights or in the kitchen cooking a frenzy of melted chocolate and brandy soaked fruit treats, we all seek out the soundtrack that makes us feel ‘this is Christmas’.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that faith, belief and spirituality play a big role in my life. And it might surprise you a little to find out that my two all time, “it’s-not-Christmas-until-I-listen-to-this-song” favourite Christmas songs have nothing – nothing at all to do with the birth of Jesus. No stables, no cribs, no gold, frankincense or myrrh. In fact, one of them is actually pretty anti-Christian (and the differences between Tim Minchin’s worldview and mine is a topic for another post!)
My second favourite Christmas song is by Aussie comedian Tim Minchin. It’s an ode to the simplicity of family, of time together. There’s a bit of an ache there as well. The chorus speaks of “seeing my dad, my brothers and sisters my gran and my mum / we’ll be drinking white wine in the sun”. As Minchin sings to his baby daughter, he tells her that “these are the people who make you feel safe in this world”.
Safety. Connection. Relationship with those who love you without conditions.
And my number one go-to, the song that combines the complexity of family, trust, the ache of loneliness and a quintessentially Aussie recipe for gravy. Paul Kelly’s song grabs each of us for so many reasons we may not be able to articulate. In his inimitable storytelling style, Kelly sings of Joe. Joe is in jail and he’s writing to his brother Dan. When he asks “won’t you kiss my kids on Christmas Day, please don’t let them cry” we sense the heart of a dad, yearning to be with his kids at Christmas. Desperately regretting his actions and terrified of losing the ones he loves the most.
Yearning. Connection. Love. Brokenness.
So why, in a whole world of tinsel, jingle bells ringing and Yuletide joy am I drawn to such melancholy Christmas tunes, written from perspectives with which I’m not familiar or deeply disagree?
I think the ache, the yearning for love and the strong bonds of family reflect so much more what our hearts are searching for, not just at Christmas, but the day after and the day after that. And while no human relationship could ever be perfect or ever totally provide the safety and love we yearn for, at Christmas I treasure the beauty of those imperfect relationships. Of my dad buying my mum cherries. Of my mum baking my sister-in-law’s favourite rum balls. Of those times that you can never plan but will always treasure, drinking white wine in the sun.
And more, so much more, the perfect love of a Saviour. Born to a broken world in search of love, of connection. Of forgiveness and grace beyond any tradition or carol.
And that’s a beautiful song, too.