I have a very specific rule about Christmas music: I am not allowed to listen to it until after December 1st.
It’s not that I don’t love Christmas music. Who doesn’t, after all? There are so many great, classic tunes — some extolling Christ’s birth, others reflecting on the joys of the holiday, and then a few weird ones that make no sense, but we all sing along with them anyway because it’s tradition. It’s also the only time of the year when it’s acceptable for everyone to listen to jazz, which I love personally.
The problem is, as a church musician, I’ve played, performed, and listened to so many of these songs so many times I tend to get sick of them before the actual holiday comes around — hence, the rule.
However, that is the only thing I don’t seem to forget.
I came across a song the other day that had the following lyric: “I never will forget.” It struck me as odd, because the truth of the matter is, I forget things all the time.
Yes, of course, I forget the simple things like where I put my cell phone down, or to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. I’m only human.
I also forget a surprising number of my own memories. (Thank goodness for family reminders and photographs.) For example, there was that time one of our cats brought a live crow into the house and put it at my feet. We thought it was dead until it jumped up and tried to fly out the window. It was mildly traumatizing, so perhaps I just blocked it out. Or that time we made cutout cookies and got a little crazy with the decorations, and my brother and I pretended we didn’t know how all that powdered sugar got on the ceiling. Once, I even forgot whether or not I’d ever been to Arizona. (I have.)
The big problem, especially during this time of the year, is I also forget just how important the holiday is. This has been repeated over and over in songs, in made-for-television movies, and more, but it bears repeating. We as humans forget things. We commemorate the past, and we try our best to plan for the future, but we live only in the present — and when we live only in the present, it’s hard to hold onto more than a few things at a time. Everything else slips past, if for a moment or a few months or for years at a time.
That’s why we have holidays. God has always tried to help us help ourselves. He made it a habit of the Israelites in Old Testament times to build memorials for times and places when God came through for them. Throughout the Bible, He tells us who He is, over and over, in a million different ways. He even commands us specifically not to forget (Deuteronomy 6:12).
But we do. And He forgives us for doing so.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we should be lax about keeping the paramount importance of God in the front of our minds and memories as much as we can. We should! That’s part of what the holidays are all about. They are for remembering the important things. We gather with friends, family, and church members to remind each other of the greatest gift the world has ever received — and the priceless treasure of the love God has always had for us. As they say, we keep the Christ in Christmas because He is the reason for the season.
In fact, He is the reason for everything. God is the Creator of the universe (John 1:3). He created each of us individually, paying attention to even the smallest details of every moment of our lives (Psalm 139:1-5, 13-16). He loved us before we loved Him (1 John 4:19). He gave His Son – He gave Himself – so we could experience that love for ourselves, and come to love Him as well (John 3:16). He gave us purpose, freedom, blessings, a wealth that transcends this temporary world and even our temporary lives.
Christmas is more than just a time to remember that Christ became flesh for us — although indeed that is precisely what it is, and we need that time to remember. It is also the first chapter of the greatest true story ever told and the promise of so much more to come. That is what we can’t afford to forget.