Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If We Make It Through December

Not all of the songs of December and the Advent season are happy.  The sound of sleigh bells, children singing, Christmas gifts, the Christmas tree in the city square, the celebrations, the worship services, and the like all heap festivity upon festivity.  But the realities of economics, loneliness, and failures are still a part of life.

It is not just Ebenezer Scrooge who reacts with a "Bah Humbug" to the season. After a few trips to the mall, to Target, the Wal-Mart, I felt the same reaction.  Now in the post-Christmas collapse, with a whole day being tied up with returns and exchanges, I remember the darker songs of the season.

The most well-known dark Christmas song has been Elvis' "Blue Christmas."  The tone of the song has a hope of promise in it.  The shadows are of what might be, not what unchangeable will be. It's up to her. Of course, if you are Elvis, prospects are pretty good that she'll come back.  Most folks whose talents, wealth, and looks are below those of Elvis have to deal with less certain odds.

Ernest Tubb, who influenced Elvis and lots of other singers, had a great song many decades ago.  Titled "Christmas is Just Another Day for Me," it bemoans having a broken heart beneath a Christmas tree. "Old friends call me up and say, 'Have a happy holiday,' but I can't bear to say you're gone, and I'm so alone..." It is as good as any country heart-break song.  Like country's music's southern and black cousin, the blues, this song will tear your heart out.

Bluegrass singer Jimmy Martin hit all the right notes in a song called "Lord, We Sure Could Use Some Rainbows in December."  As he sings, "We got gifts to buy and all the same old bills are overdue."  I have, myself, sung that line many times in recent weeks.

And the older, classical, and Baroque tradition has its own melancholy song.  "The Coventry Carol," an incredibly beautiful combination of words and music, is a lullaby sung to keep a baby asleep.  The reason was to keep the baby quiet during Herod's slaughter of the innocents.

On of my many favorite songs, although we don't usually classify it as part of the Advent music collection, is Merle Haggard's hit of a few decades back, called "If We Make It Through December." I did hear it played on a local radio station that played all Christmas music.  Haggard's appeal in that song, and in many other of his fine works, was to those who had endured the hard-scrabble life, whether it was that of Depression era farmers, or Okies in either Muskogee or California, or working class people whose lives are on the outside boundary of the American dream.

Yet, these songs, like those of coal miners, small farmers, factory hands,  and other hard-working people holds out a bit of hope.  In this case, the hope is for warmer weather (it is cold and rainy outside as I write this), a better location, and some new chances to start again. The pain of the song, the singer having lost his job and having a sad little girl, testifies to an underlying, never stated, love. Love for family with a willingness to persevere.

Jesus came into a world of people wondering if they could make it through December.  California can only properly been seen as a metaphor of the Kingdom of Heaven (although not a good metaphor).  The hardships the song relays reminds me that the bloated credit card bill that will arrive next week is only a minor hill to climb.

"If We Make It Through December" by Merle Haggard

If we make it through December
Everythings gonna be all right I know.
It's the coldest time of winter
And I shivver when I see the fallin snow.

If we make it through December
I got plans of bein in a warmer town come summer time
Maybe even California
If we make it through December we'll be fine

I got laid off down at the factory
And their timings not the greatest in the world.
Heaven knows I been workin' hard
I wanted Christmas to be right for daddy's girl

Now I don't mean to hate December;
It's meant to be the happy time of year,
And why my little girl don't understand
Why daddy can't afford no Christmas here.

If we make it through December
Everythings gonna be alright I know.
It's the coldest time of winter
And I shivver when I see the fallin' snow

If we make it through December
I got plans of bein' in a warmer town come summer time.
Maybe even California
If we make it through December we'll be fine

1 comment:

  1. I must agree. This is a great song that typifies much of the struggle this side of heaven. Thanks for the post.