Gregorian Chants and Other Dark Tales of Christmas Gift Giving

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The snow is floating so slowly from the sky that there must be male snowflakes driving who refused to stop and ask for directions, who keep telling their anxious wives that they know exactly where they are going and they will get to the ground when they get there and no, young snowflake, you don’t have to go to the bathroom, you just went 300,000 feet ago. It is that sort of stillness and quiet (seeing as we are not stuck riding shotgun on the above mentioned snowflake), the sort that makes intelligent women turn on Pentatonix and heat the water for hot chocolate while the kids huddle around crafts and such.

So, ok, maybe that’s what you are doing. I am going Christmas shopping.

So, Christmas is in less than a week and I have now had several interested parties (interested the way that I am interested when I see a cop pulling over a car and sicking the dog on the driver — obviously a bad thing is going down, but you are curious nonetheless) throw a panicked eye in my direction when I mention casually that I just barely started my Christmas shopping on Friday. The jaw drops further and the eyes start to twitch when I admit that the reason it works is because I don’t shop from a list — what do I do if the stores are out of what I want? Easy. I don’t go in knowing what I want, and so they always have it.

My Quail one year, likely after having been exposed to normal people like cousins, asked why we don’t write Christmas lists, and I cannot blame them. It must look fun to ask for a thing and then maybe actually get it. But as I explained both my method and my madness, understanding dawned and now they will be the first to tell you that there is no point in writing a list because Mom is going to find something cooler than what you thought you wanted.

This is not tooting my own horn or claiming gift-buying brilliance. This is demonstrating brain-washing (maybe that will be how this blog finally makes money… I could sell y’all a course on how to brainwash your kids… ), because actually, prior to having a family of my own, I lived under the weight of a reputation as a horrible gift giver, a weight I never seemed to shift, probably because I continued to buy gifts that no one wanted. The only thing that has really changed is that I have convinced my people to want gifts that they probably don’t actually want.

I blame the Gregorian chants.

I don’t recall my exact age, but it must have been near my teens, because my older brother was driving and was thus an accomplice to my first round of “thoughtful” gifts. Now, you understand that in my previous life, I was a jazz pianist, and I never succeeded at developing a love of classical music. I kind of… well… hate the stuff, but my mother has higher tastes than I do and I knew she enjoyed classical music, so when I came across a CD of Gregorian chants, I snatched it up (oddly, no one fought me for it…), intending no prank — what could be more classical than chants? I truly believed I had hit upon the most thoughtful, brilliant gift.

So imagine my surprise when upon opening my well-intentioned gift, Marme started laughing so hard that she turned purple and began hyperventilating, trying to draw a breath, and every time she would start to get calm, she would catch a glimpse of the album and it would start all over again.

I was nonplussed.

This has, unfortunately, been a theme in my checkered gift-giving past — “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” Yes, brainwashing has definitely been the key to earning a reputation for giving fun and making life a party.

Which leads me back to the adventure that awaits me today. Yes, I purposefully shop when it is busy, when the songs are playing, when the lights are turned on and everything is sparkly and bright and romantic. Convenience is for the birds, and I cannot fathom where the fun would lie in purchasing presents months in advance. And no, inquiring minds, I do not wrap them right away and I hate when the stores wrap them for me. I LOVE waiting up until after the Christmas Eve service, when kids are in bed, spreading out in the twinkly dark, watching Christmas in Connecticut (which is the best Christmas movie of all time. Don’t even bother disagreeing with me, you’re wrong, and if you bring up Elf, then I genuinely have no idea how we met or why you are still here, unless it is because you have become aware of your poor taste in entertainment and trying to change your ways, in which case, good on you) while I wrap gifts and tuck them under the tree, make the table pretty, and stuff stockings. Do I suffer debilitating pain crashes the week after that make me despair of things like life the week after Christmas? Sure. Every year. But man, what a way to go.

Now, I will not deny that it is proving a tricky task this morning to somehow justify my bizarre gift shopping and giving habits from a spiritual vantage point, but it is obviously a day for ambitious ventures, so here goes.

We have a nasty habit of equating worry with preparation. Often when we give into the stress of Christmas preparation, it is because we had things planned, things that we wanted or needed to do, and dang it all if the time is not going faster than we gave it permission to go and now we feel the crunch. But Jesus tells us to be like little children, trusting Him to provide the things we really need, and with that He heaps up so much more, beyond our needs. Toddlers don’t have to worry that mom will forget their dinner or their blanket or how they like being tickled under the chin. They don’t have to lay out charts and graphs and enter lists into their phones to ensure that they get loved and that they are able to show love. They take each moment as it comes.

Be anxious for nothing. Christmas is flying at us — breathe in deep, enjoy the ride! Reject the lie that if you worry and fuss enough, that you will be prepared. You cannot possibly be prepared for the wondrous things God has in store for you. Receive it. Receive Him.

He is coming, He is coming, He is coming…

2 Responses

  1. Ellen
    | Reply

    But did the chant album ultimately become a treasured favorite?

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