Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A (Late) Pause in Advent #3

I have joined Floss and others in a Pause in Advent. Check out Floss's site for a list of other bloggers participating in this annual event.

I'm composing a playlist of Christmas carols that I'm not sick to death of hearing. I love Bing and Perry and Andy Williams and Burl Ives, but I've been listening to them sing "White Christmas" and "Frosty" and "The Christmas Song" for nigh onto fifty years now and can no longer really hear them. I need new versions, new songs.

On my playlist I have the great Odetta's "What Month was Jesus Born In" and "Shout for Joy," and the strange and enchanting Sufjan Stevens' "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." I have Big Star singing "Jesus Christ (was born today)." And I have what may be my favorite Christmas carol of all time, Tom Waits' "A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis."

There's actually no mention of Christmas at all in this song. It starts out with the narrator writing to her friend Charlie, telling him that she's pregnant,

"and I stopped taking dope
and I quit drinking whiskey
and my old man plays the trombone
and works out at the track.

and he says that he loves me
even though it's not his baby
and he says that he'll raise him up
like he would his own son

and he gave me a ring
that was worn by his mother
and he takes me out dancin
every saturday nite."

The next few stanzas continue on describing how good the narrator's life is. And then we get to the end of the song:

"Hey Charlie,
for chrissakes
do you want to know
the truth of it?
I don't have a husband
he don't play the trombone

and I need to borrow money
to pay this lawyer
and Charlie, hey
I'll be eligible for parole
come Valentines day. "

It's right around this time--a week away from Christmas--where I start to feel like the narrator of this song. I'm trying to paint a beautiful picture with the Christmas tree, the lights and decorations, the house that smells like Christmas cookies and banana bread. But it's too much. Suddenly I'm cranky and out of sorts, on the verge of getting a cold. Hey, Charlie, you wanna know the truth of it? I'm not all that merry and bright.

And that, my dears, is when Christmas really starts, when I'm ready to tell the truth about my own poverty. I don't have a husband and he don't play the trombone. Most days I'm stuck in a jail of my own making.

Christmas is about many things, but to me, for it to have real meaning, Christmas has to be about hope. O come, o come Emmanuel, pay my bail. Shine a little light in this darkness.

It's no coincidence that the narrator of this song is writing a Christmas card. It's no coincidence that she's a hooker. Jesus served the lowliest of the low. Some say he preferred them. For those of us who have money, nice homes, status, sometimes we forget our poverty. It's only when we hit the wall that we see the light shining from the other side. 


GretchenJoanna said...

I put a link to your post on my Facebook page this morning and it's quickly very popular. Thank you!

Lynn said...

I also linked your blog to my facebook page as a Christmas card to my FB friends. Thank you for taking the time to share this. It touched my heart and caused me to pause and think about the true miracle of Christmas and the true Hope we received. Thank you.

Gumbo Lily said...

Oh, Frances, you are so right. We have to see and know our poverty to receive the Hope & Salvation in the Son. Thank you for this.

Merry Christmas,

Amanda said...

You sure hit the nail on the head. Life in Christ isn't about looking and feeling pretty and wonderful -- it's about knowing it's only Him that can make us so. thank you.

Pom Pom said...

Isn't it the truth. After a day at school, I drag my behind home and look for comfort in the tree lights, the smell of pine, and DINNER. We ARE poverty stricken indeed. Today I took a jingle bell to school and told kids to shut their eyes while I jingled a little chime in their ear. I get the feeling many of them are feeling pretty anxious about now.

Nancy McCarroll said...

Pretty powerful stuff.

It will be read to the husband. Aloud.

I had a haunting dream that I awoke from a few minutes ago. My friend Janet, now deceased, gave a brunch with dozens of delectables, and I can recall each sweet in detail, down to their glazed icings. I asked for a cup of coffee prior to being seated, with dozens of people milling around. I asked several times, looked for a cup, looked for the coffee, and when I finally found a mug in the freezer to hold the coffee, there was no coffee pot. Then I begrudgingly went to the tables of foods, and only crumbs wee left.

I am still feeling that poverty. This in a time of plenty. Go figure. What was THAT about? I will ponder this and also your post today.

wayside wanderer said...

Love what you share here, Frances, and it is so true. I was listening to all the various renditions of Joy to the World on my ipod trying to find the verse that says, "as far as the curse is found" because the curse is in every knook and cranny and it is my FAVORITE verse. You know what I learned? Most recorded versions do not include this stanza!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Jo said...

Frances, I think maybe that Christmas is found at the moment when suddenly the lights and trimmings and the shopping and the bling are so much dross, and the realisation comes that all you need is your family and a bowl of soup for happiness..

The Barefoot Crofter said...

Wow - this is powerful stuff and totally articulates my feelings right now. Thank you

Kezzie said...

Very true! How easy it is to feel like we can do it alone until we are in poverty. Bless you for this post x