Church in the Snow
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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.

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  • Christan Perona

    Just as we must choose joy, we must choose REST as you described: resting in the “goodness and grace and perfection of the main thing that matters.” Free us, Lord, from all that does not matter, for we get so consumed. Thank you so much, Tsh!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Choosing to rest: I love that. Yesterday my 5-year-old asked me to play a game, and I had to mentally run through my to-do list before I realized, wait—I can do that. I have time to play with him. It was just what my soul needed.

  • Joanne Peterson


    BTW, I love the history behind the hymns and the Christmas carols too. When my first round of kids were homeschooled, we studied this as part of music history. I still like to look back. Your blog post hit me not in the Christmas sense, but in my daily life sense. We’ve been struggling with our boys, and I’ve been immersed by all of the ways God is speaking to address this, my heart attitudes, my own helplessness to change; it has to be in the Holy Spirit and prayer, and won’t work in my effort and my wanting things to have some semblance of control. But yet it is in the sovereignty of God Himself to allow, and to teach all of us. And your statement hit me “I can rather it not be this way, but I can rest in the goodness, and the grace, and perfection of the main thing that matters, during Christmas, (and our lives) Christ, and ultimately His love and Him crucified. Living in the Spirit, listening to the still small voice, and instead of fighting what happens, asking, “How Lord?” and accepting and obeying….Yes, I can identify with kids bickering the whole of looking at lights, Oh yes I can, but does it really matter as you pointed out? Thank you Tsh, I know you intended this for Christmas, but this hit home of just where I am in my parenting and walk with Jesus. Be blessed in Christ, and Merry Christmas right where you are, Joanne

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Oh, I’m so glad it “hit you” wherever you needed it, Joanne. That’s often the case with whatever I end up writing…. I need it just as much as anyone else, if not more. ;) Happy holidays to you!

  • Intentionally Pursuing

    What a beautiful story behind “Silent Night” of how brokenness led to beauty. Parallels my own list of imperfections made perfect by God’s grace. Thank you, Tsh, for the beautiful history lesson. : )

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Right? We’re all broken organs. Love that.