I walked outside today and felt like I was in the middle of one of those picture puzzles where you try to identify what doesn’t belong. I looked around and couldn’t immediately identify it and moved on, but when I jumped in my truck and headed down the road I was still challenged by the unsolved mystery. I turned on the radio and was a few lines into a Christmas song when it came to me. The solution to the puzzle. It was that beloved Notre Dame flag waving prouder than ever from the front porch of our house.
It’s looked so good there all season long. Whipping up wild applause for 12 straight victories. It looks even better as it waits in anticipation for the big night – the national championship game. That flag, after all, has never waived through the breezes of an undefeated season and a possible championship. In fact, no one living thing under the age of 20 has ever felt such a breeze. But they are blowing today, and so why shouldn’t the flag?
I could easily yield to temptation and line the driveway with Fighting Irish flags and stand on the front porch and belt out the Notre Dame fight song each morning at sunrise until the big game on January 7th. The neighbors would hate me. But Ian and Elliott would love me and spend every pre-Christmas break school day telling their friends how cool it is to wake up every morning to the neighbors yelling for their dad to shut up. I’m certain the inspiration would reach South Bend. In the end it would be very uninspiring to me, though. In a season that has become all about blurred vision and watered down definitions, it wouldn’t be good for me to add to my own confusion. And I’m no longer talking about football season. I’m talking about the Christmas season.
There are so many things that will occur over the next month that will distract from what should be a singular anticipation of the celebration of the birth of our Savior. There will be office parties and gifts and Santa letters and reruns of reruns of Rudolph and Frosty. And I don’t think any of those things alone are bad or wrong. They lead us to wonder. They make us ponder the spirit in the air: the rise of peace and goodwill to men. But if they don’t all lead us in one direction, at the prince of peace, the only one to ever preach love thy neighbor and then, without fail, do so, then they lead us in the wrong direction.
I admit there have been many Christmas seasons when I have lost sight of, and worse, never considered at all the importance of this most wonderful season. It occurred to me today that if I can’t devote this Christmas season to honoring the first and historical appearance of Jesus on this earth, how can I ever be devoted to living in anticipation of his future and final coming. The ultimate Christmas.
And so today I will take the flag down. I can’t promise the breezes won’t blow me in the direction of championship day – occasionally, or that the flag won’t fly again on December 26th, but I hope in its absence I will live in a singular anticipation of what should truly be celebrated this season.
More than hiding the things that distract me, though, I want to see and hear the things that focus me. Like Christmas music. There are so many Christmas songs that tell the story of this season. Over the next 25 days I want to share some of the songs that touch my heart and shape my thoughts this Christmas season.
Today I share a song that would be more perfectly titled in my world: “the prelude to this blog post.”