I love the history behind beloved hymns. When I was standing in The Jerusalem Hotel lobby in Israel earlier this year, staring at the original copy of It Is Well With My Soul, scribbled on the hotel’s paper as a companion of Horatio Spafford’s grief, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.
I love the story from the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, when both the French and the Germans stopped fighting and came out of the trenches, each singing O Holy Night in their native language. And I love that Joy to the World was written by a 15-year-old dissatisfied with the worship songs of the time in the early 18th century.
But right now, I love to remember that Silent Night’s music was composed for a pastor’s poem after the church organist arrived early to set up for the service and found that the organ was broken. He made up a guitar melody on the fly, and we now sing this poem the way he wrote it a second time.
Because for me, that brief moment is pretty parallel to my own holiday season right now. As I type this, I’m sitting in a mess of a bedroom, with friends coming over for a holiday potluck in just a few hours. The cookies I baked didn’t quite turn out like I had hoped, and I never got around to making that wreath for the front door.
With four days left until the start of Christmastime, there’s a chance it won’t happen at all.
I’m choosing, instead, to embrace the imperfection of our holiday festivities and to turn my stressful inclinations (the cookies aren’t quite right!) towards the actual, only perfect thing we celebrate.
My imperfect holiday couldn’t be a more fitting picture of the flawless grace that came to earth in perfect human form.
So my bedroom is a mess. And so my son’s chess set might not arrive in the mail before the 25th. And there’s a chance the kids will bicker all through the evening when we drive around to look at the lights. I can rather it not be that way, but I can also rest in the goodness and grace and perfection of the main thing that matters during Christmas.
I’m glad that organ broke in that humble village church in Austria. And I’ll choose to be glad that the cookies didn’t quite turn out like I wanted. Both paint with strokes of humanity, dipped in divine paint swirling with grace.
Happy Advent, and Merry Christmas, all.