It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. Clayton has commissioned me, as King of Christmas Joy, to write a good number of Christmas posts. And that is going to happen. I’d planned on starting on Friday before leaving for a few days experiencing Christmas time in New York City. While I was beginning this post, the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut happened. As I was plugged in, absorbing the news (true and false) as it rolled in, I was in no place and it was no time to post about Christmas joy during the holidays. It was one of the most tragic days I can ever remember in our country in my lifetime.
There’s nothing I have to contribute here that hasn’t already been said or written elsewhere. However, at this time of year, I find myself numb with grief and angry at tragedy, tearing up with the President, and thinking like fictional President Bartlett that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels.
My friend Parker and others have written about the darkest part of the Christmas story, mentioned in Matthew 2:18: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Before 10% of the true facts were known about the tragedy and long before any of the names of the victims were released, national conversations began. There will be discussions about gun laws. There will be debate about our culture and mental health policy. There will be allegations against the violence in video games, television, and films. There is also the conversation about school safety. All of these are important conversations.
We need to and must do whatever we can to ensure, as much as we can, that things like this don’t happen again.
But, regardless of one’s worldview, we can all admit we live in an imperfect and broken world. Tragedy does happen and it will happen. We disagree as a culture about what “evil” is, but we’re all willing to say that certain things are evil.
It’s in this time of reflection, prayer, mourning, and discussion that Christ’s birth has as much importance as it ever has before. God incarnate, as an innocent and vulnerable baby, born in the humblest and most dangerous of circumstances.
Silent Night. Holy Night.
Throw the spotlight on Linus.
The Newtown tragedy has made us all (or should have made us all) think about our priorities, the things we worry about and stress about in this holiday season. We’re more blessed than we realize we are. We’re also more vulnerable than we wish we were.
It’s why Christ had to come. Thank God he did. The original Christmas story, the reason for the season… if we’re honest with ourselves, we often think of it as cliche and something we know. But it’s something that happened that has more impact on our lives today than anything else. Or at least it should. Unfortunately, far too often it does not.
So in this context, I bring you this post, my first of several Christmas-related posts. There will be parts of these that are silly and parts that are a bit more reflective and deep. Parts will be corny and parts… well, all of it will be pretty corny.
In the face of tragedy, we all have different reactions. There’s a part of the human spirit that wants to end any silly traditions and reflect somberly on the tragedy and brokenness of humanity. Can we really watch Rudolph, Frosty, and Clark Griswold in the face of tragedy?
I argue that never have your families’ and friends’ holiday traditions been more important. And if you’ve never had them, start creating some. Regardless of the causes of tragedies like Newtown, there’s one thing we can all agree on – spending significant, loving time with family and friends will make this world a better place. Serving those in need in your community, getting to know them, and combining your life story with theirs will make this world a better place. This is the story of the first Christmas – in the midst of murder, mourning, imperfect laws, and stressed out people was born our Savior, Christ the King, God in human flesh.
So, to end my first Christmas post, I wanted to share with you my 2012 Christmas YouTube Hall of Fame. A big tradition in my family (and many others) is to decorate the Christmas tree, make some hot chocolate, start a roaring fire, and wrap presents while watching Christmas movies and classic Christmas TV specials and episodes. Some of my favorite memories are sitting on the couch in pajamas and watching these with my sister, Mary. So, to share with you some of my silly traditions that actually embody the love and care I feel from and with my family during the holiday season, here are some of my favorites that are on YouTube. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
The Year Without a Santa Claus: From the now infamous Miser Brothers to my personal favorite song, “I Believe in Santa Claus”, this is one of those that has developed a cult following because it has never gotten as much of the prime-time traditional love from broadcast networks. It gets more popular every year and even spawned a live-action Made-for-TV version starring John Goodman. But nothing beats this original. Nothing beats a claymation Christmas special. And nothing beats a plot line where children and elves prove to Santa how much he’s loved and how much his giving spirit is needed.
Josh and CJ discuss “Ave Maria” on The West Wing’s fifth episode of its first season: Back when Aaron Sorkin’s television writing was sappy, charming, and not completely pompous, this scene leans heavily on the artistic brilliance of Ave Maria. Whenever I hear the song, I think of this scene. Here’s the [LINK].
In Excelsis Deo – The West Wing’s first season Christmas episode ends with “The Little Drummer Boy” and tears streaming down my face. Watch the whole thing, even if you’ve never seen the show. But this final scene gets me every time. Here’s the [LINK].
Home Improvement Season 1, Episode 12 – Yule Better Watch Out: Tim Allen. JTT is young and mischievous. This is the last decade in which shows gave us annual Christmas episodes that were special in their own right, evoking both spiritual and secular aspects of the holidays. This one does one of the classic Christmas sitcom tropes as good as any other… the old double Santa Claus trick with the first one being the real one! CHRISTMAS MIRACLES ALL AROUND US!
Frosty the Snowman: Jimmy Durante. The wily magician and his magical hat. One of many Christmas specials featuring the woodland critters. Miracle Christmas snow. Heartbreak followed by hope. This one has it all. It’s the original. One of the best. You know it well. NOW, enjoy it on YouTube!
Twas the Night Before Christmas: Found on YouTube searching “Twas the Night Before Christmas mouse cartoon,” this is one that my parents recorded on VHS for me when I was quite young. One of Rankin-Bass’s (they are SIMPLY THE BEST AND SOME OF THE ALL-TIME CHRISTMAS HALL-OF-FAMERS… future blog post for sure) half-hour, 2D animated specials, this one puts a twist on Clement Moore’s tale. It involves skepticism vs. faith, fun animation, Santa, mice and humans interacting peacefully, and one of the most underrated songs ever. Forever boggling those debating predestination and freewill, check out the song, “Even a Miracle Needs a Hand.”
A Very Topanga Christmas from Boy Meets World, Season 5, Episode 11: Always loved me some Boy Meets World Christmas episodes. But this one became especially poignant once I became married. It has Mr. Feeny as a Dickens-like ghost to show Cory around in his dream and it has a lot of wisdom about compromising with your spouse to bring your family’s Christmas traditions together with theirs to begin making some of your own.
Frosty Returns: I still remember when this one premiered in the early 90s. Not as good as the original, but still special and meaningful in its own way. It pairs together with the original very well, and any time we get snow in the south, I always take a listen to this special’s classic, “Let there be snow, LET THERE BE SNOW!” That Frosty… always in so much danger. And yet always comes through thanks to the help of his friends.
Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too: Had this one on VHS too. Not gonna lie, although it’s great, the main reason this one is included is because the YouTube copy comes straight from the version with Michael Eisner giving his introduction with the live-action Winnie the Pooh characters. Worth watching this one’s first few minutes for that alone.
That’s all for this year! Saving the rest for other posts and other years’ Christmas YouTube Hall of Fames! Look out for more posts in the coming days, including a Christmas Movie Fantasy Draft between me and one of my law school classmates!