I was talking with The Future the other day about Christmas music and our discussion led to bands that feel the need to make a Christmas CD and how often these kinds of albums don’t seem to measure up to anything else the band had recorded.I asked him if he had ever heard of Snow Angels by a group called Over The Rhine. His immediate response was, “Well, that’s not really fair to include them in this list.”
What he meant was, it’s a little like stacking the card deck, or pitting men against boys. It’s just not like all the rest.
I just recently discovered Snow Angels this year, even though it is a 2007 release from OTR. I can easily say I have no other Christmas recording like it.The only downside I can think of is that I might listen to it too much and thereby lose some of its savor.
Christmas is thought of as a happy time of celebration.All the commercial images we see portrayed are happy people shopping for gifts to make people even happier. The food you serve makes you and your loved ones happy. We want it to be this way, but the reality of the holiday doesn’t always deliver that same end result.
Snow Angels has a way of expressing this darker side without being morose, despondent or hopeless. It allows you to acknowledge the emotion of loneliness that comes from being without a loved one during the holiday, while not encouraging you to wallow in pity.It says that sorrow from loss is natural, because that person meant something.It does something very few works of art can do; it encourages you, in the Words of Solomon, to grasp one and not let go of the other. To hold joy in one hand, and grief in the other is very difficult to do, if not near impossible.
My Christmas this year finds me tussling with these kinds of juxtaposed feelings. I hold the ugliness of Karen’s cancer in one hand, and the relief of her recovery in the other. I grip the sadness of a boy leaving for college, and at the same time, clutch the hope of a young man growing to maturity to change his world. I hang on to the quietness of the house during this season, while not letting go of the memories of children who daily took inventory of the presents under the tree, waiting eagerly for the day they could tear into the wrapping.
Listening to Snow Angels offers me the opportunity to survey both sides of my story, to reach out and embrace either side at will. The road up to the mountain leads through the valley. It can’t be circumvented, try as I may.