This may be one of the more inflammatory things I’ve said in awhile: I listen to Christmas music in July. In recent weeks, this practice of mine has come under fire on Twitter and Facebook. Liturgical loyalists and sentimental, seasonal adherents alike cry foul in my general direction. I understand. Really, I do.
It used to be one of my strictest rules: no Christmas before Thanksgiving. No decorations, no music, no shopping, nothing. It was inherited instruction, deeply rooted in family tradition. Thanksgiving was a day of turkey and pie and goodness, but the best day was the day following. Rather than run out to the stores and the sales, we would wake early, retrieve the boxes from the basement, and spend the entire day decorating trees, singing carols, stringing lights outside and drinking hot chocolate. The anticipation of the day was part of its greatness.
Becoming a pastor only made it worse. In my earlier years of ministry, I was among the strictest Advent enforcers you would ever find. No Christmas carols before Thanksgiving? That’s child’s play. No Christmas carols before Christmas Eve, thank you very much.
I have since relaxed my own self-imposed rules substantially, and the stories that have dominated the news cycles this month have reminded me why. I listen to Christmas music in July — heck, I sing Christmas music in July — and the rest of the year as well, because when the troubles of this world are looming large, I need to be face-to-face with incarnation. One of my church members recently pointed out that “incarnation is a big word, but it’s an even bigger promise,” * and sometimes I simply need that big, beautiful promise to sing in my soul. Even in the middle of summer. Christmas music isn’t what makes incarnation real, but for me, it does make it that much more tangible. And that transcends — and promises to transform — every season.
* Caroline Barnett, during a keynote presentation at Montreat Youth Conferences this summer. Currently a student at Kalamazoo College, Caroline grew up at Village Church and routinely demonstrates that she is smarter than an least one of her pastors (this one).
Jenny McDevitt is Pastor of Pastoral Care at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, KS. Originally from Michigan, she’s also lived in California, Virginia, and a few places in between. Her dog, Reilly, has been a faithful companion along the way. She loves stories — listening to them, reading them, and telling them. She is good at laughing, stubborn while running, and clueless about gardening.