Come, they told me: a newborn king to see
Our finest gifts we bring to lay before the king
So to honor him when we come.
I have a confession to make.
I love Christmas music, and could play Christmas music all year long. And sometimes—when no one is listening—I’ll play it in my office… even in June or July or August!
Christmas carols, somehow, have this magical way of instantaneously reminding me of the story of God’s incredible love for me, for us, which is what we really celebrate at Christmas.
And Christmas carols, even secular ones, make me feel happy. They remind me of home. I still remember some verses of a song about elves who discovered “it’s better to give than receive.” The song was on a record we played at Christmas time every year in our home. That’s the one Christmas carol I associate with my childhood, with going home… I still will look for that record if I’m at home for Christmas.
And how about you? What’s your favorite Christmas carol? What song fills you with good memories of your childhood?
On to another confession.
Jeannette and I were wondering what to do for an Advent-Christmas mini-retreat this year to offer you, our loyal friends. We actually were thinking and praying about this for you in July!
We knew this Advent-Christmas might not be filled with happy family reunions for everyone. Some of us will be grieving friends and family members, having had nothing but a “Zoom wake” to mourn and remember them. Some of us will still be putting our lives on the line in hospitals and city streets and classrooms for the sake of others. Some of us will feel afraid. We’ll all be uncertain of the future. And that uncertainty makes us even more anxious…
Even a Christmas carol can’t wipe all that away. We can’t sweep all our emotions and concerns and grief under the rug to pull out the stops for a gala celebration of Christmas in our own living rooms, isolated perhaps still from other family members. Maybe it will be different; after all, it’s only November… But maybe it won’t.
And Jesus wouldn’t want us to wash away our own very real struggles in order to throw him a party, either.
Jesus came so we can find our story in the midst of his story... a story that is beautiful and sad and charming and full of promise and tragedy and hope and confusion and strength in the darkness and the triumph of light and love.
That is what Christmas is all about, really.
So after praying together about this, we decided that on Tuesdays from now until the end of the year, we’ll offer you a mini-Advent retreat based on the song The Little Drummer Boy and on the story that was adapted from it. I’m 57, so I grew up watching the animated version of The Little Drummer Boy every Christmas while my parents struggled with putting the lights on the Christmas tree. With my sister and brother, I cried every year through the story of Aaron who lost his family in a fire set by desert brigands and who then wandered the desert as an orphan with his magical drum and three animal friends who danced to its beat. But we cried even harder at the end as Aaron played for Jesus in Bethlehem and at last found love.
Perhaps you watched it also.
This animated version of The Little Drummer Boy is based on the original song written in 1941 by Katherine Kennicott Davis. It’s a story in which we can find our own stories this year—every year, in fact. It’s the story of the power of Christmas, and this year, like Aaron, we so need to experience the coming of Christ and what he can do in our lives in a powerful way.
So we invite you to join us in this mini-retreat every Tuesday until Christmas. The commercial Christmas season begins after Veterans Day, so that’s where we’re beginning, also, today, and we’ll continue our mini-retreat through Advent and to the end of the year.
Welcome to The Little Drummer Boy!
Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP
I hope you’ll keep in touch by joining my letter that I send out a couple times a month here.
Little Drummer Boy (c) 1968 Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment / Universal Pictures DreamWorks Classics