Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hitting Home

We take a break from colon-related posts for something completely different. A Christmas post.

Years ago I bought the CD "City on a Hill: It's Christmas Time." Normally I don't wade through Contemporary Christian music stuff but this album is a project by Derri Dougherty and Steve Hindalong, the two guys behind The Choir, one of the most respected and innovative Christian alternative bands out there. Good stuff (lotta meat and astounding music) in them there Choir albums.

In 1991 these two got together and pulled together some of Christian music's luminaries and some of their less-successful but artistically inclined friends and made "At The Foot Of the Cross : Clouds, Rain, Fire", a worship album that contemplates the sacrifice of Christ. Yes, a "worship" album. But as I would have hoped from these creative trailblazers this is not a "raise your hands and let the emotions flow" kind of pablum. It's a bit dark, the lyrics are poetic and problematic in that they don't give you easy answers and above all it is very liturgical right down to Latin being worked into the music bridges. The song "When the Sun Fades" had a crazy, weird sound that made me sit up and take notice not only of the instrument known as the bass guitar but also the immense talents of Tim Chandler, the more-often-than-not bassist for The Choir and a demented genius in the minds of many. Both albums are available for download here and proceeds help the band members buy guitar picks. You can't just pick out one or two songs, the album needs to be swallowed whole and as such the album didn't do too well, much like their Choir albums.

They followed up with a second album (The Seven Last Words of Christ) that did even less well and have yet to complete part three but insist that they will one day "get Christ out of the tomb." They also started their "City on a Hill" series which was similar in focus and, for me, had similar mediocre results as the second "Foot" album: One or two very good songs and the rest just meh.

For some reason I bought their "City on a Hill" Christmas album a few years back, probably out of some feeling of wanting to financially support these artists. I listened to it once or twice and enjoyed the many original Christmas songs but it was all pretty "meh", even the song by Terry Taylor, one of my favorite songwriters.

This year I picked up the CD to give me something to listen to while wrapping presents and it just started to click. Not all of it but a lot of it. The one that really cinched things is "Child of Love", written by Steve Hindalong and two guys who are probably in some (then) trendy Contemporary Christian band, Matthew West and Mark Lee. It's sung by Sara Groves who is an artist who has dared to achieve some level of popularity while retaining her faith and artistic integrity. Here's the song:

The song might have affected me the way it does because we have a six month old. I can't imagine being Mary and holding this little baby and knowing that He was "made for all mankind / But you will always be mine." My wife and I kid (well, I kid but I think she's serious) and hold Tessa close and say "MY baby!" Here is Mary, holding HER baby and loving him only the way a mother can love her baby but knowing that while for that night he may be resting in her arms "someday You will save the world." Did she know, holding that cute little baby in her arms, the horrors He would endure for our sake on the cross? When Jesus was on the cross did Mary look up and remember him as HER baby in her arms?

Forget "Breath of Heaven"... this is the meaning of Christmas.


john thomson said...

I have read of many churches celebrating Christmas with Pageants that include an actual baby portraying the role of 'baby Jesus'. Our first child Ruth, was born December 12th, 1981 and was chosen to be 'baby Jesus' for our church's (Reba Place Fellowship) Christmas Eve service. Last year, our grandson, Charlie, born on Oct. 19th 2008, was chosen, also at Reba Place Fellowship.

But in prison no such ritual exists.

I wasn't even thinking about babies being in Christmas plays back in 1972. This was yet another year in prison, the difference being this was my first Christmas as a Christian. The Christmas service held new meaning for me as we sang the traditional Christmas Carols bringing with it a hope for a new life with a redeemed future. Christian volunteers were a part of our service at the U. S. Medical Center for Prisoners in Springfield, Mo.

As our service wound to completion a cry was heard. The faint whimpering of a baby. My first thought was that I wasn't hearing what I thought I had heard. I had been in prison for many years and had never even seen a baby inside of a prison (not counting my infrequent times in the visiting room.) But there it was again, a baby crying. Someone, a volunteer, had brought their baby into the service wrapped in a blanket unnoticed by the guards. I then thought, there was our 'baby Jesus'.

The parents of the yet unknown child were the children of an older couple (Lloyd and Nita Colbaugh) who had only a few years previously begun their ministry to the prison. Even the great-grandmother, (Mom Carter) was a volunteer and had played a significant role in my own conversion, telling me that God had a plan for my life.

Life would go on and the incident of 'baby Jesus' coming to prison would fade to a memory, until the baby grew up and now is known throughout many countries far and wide as acclaimed Christian singer/songwriter Sara Groves.

Big Doofus said...

It's actually a great CD.

Uvulapie said...

Doofus - which CD? The City on a Hill? Foot of the Cross? Carman's Greatest Hit?

John Thomson - Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. Have a blessed Christmas!