The Gleeful Gourmand: December 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Wexford Carol

Hello, friends! It has been quite some time since I've been able to sit down and write, much less make anything fun or interesting to post about. I don't know about you, but November swept past me in a furious whirlwind, and I haven't been able to recover, until today. So I hope you'll excuse my prolonged absence, and read this post, which has nothing to do about food, but definitely falls in the "life" category.

"Good people of this Christmastime, consider well, and bear in mind, what our good God for us has done in sending His beloved Son..."

So begins my favorite Christmas carol, The Wexford Carol, a beautiful, haunting song recounting the Nativity story. The version I love so much is sung by the incomparable Alison Krauss, with Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello. Until last Christmas, I had never even heard this carol (despite the fact that it can be traced, at least partly, to the 12th century), but fell in love with it completely the first time I heard it, every hair standing on end as I did so.

The song evokes strong medieval, Celtic imagery thanks to the echo of bag pipes. It puts me in mind of serious contemplation, and it's a song I can listen to on repeat without growing tired of it. It's that deep contemplation I didn't realize I was in desperate need of this Christmas season: some time to be inspired by the Christ child.

Don't get me wrong, I love being holly-jolly just as much as the next person. In fact, I sometimes think we need that holly-jolliness just to help carry us through the season. When we're stressed to the max over finding that last perfect present, that the majority of our Christmas lights are burnt out, or the fact that our Yule Log cracked and fell apart, or battling mall parking lots...or wondering where our next paycheck is coming from...or mourning the loss of someone near to us; sometimes we just have to plaster a smile on our faces, throw up the tree and decorations, make everything sparkly and bright and down a cup of good cheer, just to get through. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But I realized early on this Christmas season that it wouldn't be enough for me this year. My family is going through its own particular season right now, a season that we've seen before, and one that is neither holly nor jolly. With both my husband and I being entrepreneurs, we're almost guaranteed that we will find seasons like the one we have found ourselves in, and it's difficult to want to be in the "Christmas Spirit." I believe I even have it easier than most in this particular season, because if I have to be in the trenches, there is no one on earth I'd rather be stuck in a trench with than my husband. But still, it's hard to find ourselves in this season again; working our absolute hardest with little to show for it. No one ever said owning your own business would be easy.

Which is why, despite the pretty, glittery decorations, and happy, cheerful music, I find myself drawn to The Wexford Carol over and over again. When I was a child, I believed in Santa Claus for quite a long time. I was that child in the song, creeping out of bed in the small hours, looking under the shade of my window, straining my ears to hear the tap of hooves on the roof, the jingle of bells, a hearty laugh from a man in a red suit. I felt then that I was on the cusp of discovering him, that maybe I really would hear those things. My disappointment was pretty profound when I finally realized that he didn't exist (thanks a lot, kid on the bus in second grade!). For a child with an over-active imagination, it was crushing.

But even after I gave up believing in Santa, I was still drawn for years to my window - face pressed up against the cold glass, waiting, watching, expectant. I wasn't watching for Santa. Though I had long since given up on him, I realized there was still something magical about Christmas Eve. But it was deeper, more meaningful. Holy. Sacred. Ancient. There is nothing ordinary about Jesus' birth. The whole thing is supernatural, not of this world. A deep, ancient, magical occurrence. A promise, in the form of a baby.

Even from the beginning, there is something about this story that makes you sit up straight and take notice. Something in the way John in the wilderness goes about proclaiming to anyone who will listen that makes you realize that something BIG is about to happen: "He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" (Luke 3:1-6)

That's what we've all been waiting on, all this time. That's the season I'm in right now, and maybe you are too. Maybe you're just like me, and all the news from the world and the terrible things that are happening are threatening to overthrow you with fear. Maybe your own life is threatening to overthrow you with fear. But what I was waiting on as a child, and what I need in the deep, quiet, stirring contemplation of Jesus this Christmas season is the mountains and hills to be made low, the crooked places in my life to be made straight, the rough ways smoothed out. But I realize in that contemplation that I'll never get there if I don't first prepare. Baptism prepared us from the beginning, but that's not where the preparation ends. It's not like we can just stop refining our hearts and hope that will be enough.

"Prepare and go, the angels said, to Bethlehem, be not afraid."

"Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight..."

That's what The Wexford Carol helps me do in the midst of a crazed season of life, a crazed season of Christmastime, in a world that can feel as though it's coming apart at the seams. It reminds me of the Holy mystery, and tells me to prepare. If I prepare my heart, and trust in God, I know He will uphold me. I'm still a child in my heart, waiting at the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Star, holding on to the ancient truth that sets us all free. That's preparation to me.

Love. Hope. Trust. Charity. Goodwill. Kindness. Above all, kindness. This Christmas season, in the midst of all the rush, parties, programs, and Christmas lights that refuse to light, even though you bought that special contraption just to fix them - take the time to listen to The Wexford Carol, and contemplate the glorious mystery we're presented each year.

You can listen and watch it by clicking HERE.