Tag Archives: christmas

Generousity of Spirit … and Legos

My son did something beautiful this Christmas. He gave a simple, pure, thoughtful, costly gift to his cousins.

Josiah loves Legos, because he is alive and a boy and because they are awesome. About a month ago, he also started getting really into rockets. Not sure what triggered it, but they too are awesome. So, he takes his Legos, and stacks them up into big tall towers, and they are rockets, and he flies them around the house.

A few weeks ago, he stacked up 3 big towers of Legos, and asked Gretchen to help him wrap them.

“Why?”

“This one is for my Zacky, this one is for my Jacob, this one is for my Joshua, these are for Christmas.” He wanted to give his Lego rockets away to the three boy cousins we would be seeing over the holidays.

For three weeks, we kept asking him if he still wanted to give them away. We wanted to make sure he understood that giving a gift meant the person gets to keep it, and you don’t have it any more. They were his Legos, he could give them away as presents if he wanted to, but if he did he wouldn’t be able to play with them anymore, they would belong to his three cousins instead. We weren’t trying to talk him out of it, but we did want to make sure he understood what he was doing.

He did, and he was unwavering. He wanted to give them away. So, of course, we let him.

And so, on Christmas Eve, he gave the most precious thing he owns away to his cousins, so that they could have rockets.

The last three months have been rough with him. He drops tantrums like crazy, and there is a defiant streak running through him. But there is also a purity of spirit, a part of him that acts without pretense or calculation. At the end of a hard few months, the gift of Legos was a gift to Gretchen and I too; it was a chance to see our son at his best, and draw renewed strength from that simply act of generosity.

Do You Hear?

What time is it?

Do You Hear?

Awwwww yeah, it’s that time! This is the orchestral interlude to the epic Christmas opener for this year. The sound is straight out of Sibelius, so … be gracious. I’m including the score for those who wish to geek out. The section you hear starts on page 5, bar 48.

XMAS-OPENER_11x17_SCORE

Sing, Ye Christmas Choirs

Working on the opener for the big APU Celebrate Christmas concert. It’s going to be a big epic choir & orchestra setting of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, building up into a new anthem that I just finished last night. I’m kind of loving this.

Sing, Ye Christmas Choirs

Sing, ye Christmas Choirs
Ring, ye wild bells ring while darkness flees

Sing the Light of Heav’n
Sing of peace o’er all the earth while darkness flees,

O sing, ye choirs
O sing, ye choirs
Ring out, ye wild bells ring

Ring out Christmas bells
Ring out songs of joy for God has come

O Son of Israel
O Zion’s Daughter, sing! our God has come

Brightest of Adam’s wandering sons
Joined with the light of the holy one,

O sing, ye choirs
O sing, ye choirs
Ring out, ye wild bells ring

What’s That Stank? Oh, It’s Just This Christmas that I’m Laying Down

To me, my men and women of valor! To me, in my hour of need! To me, and aid me, so that I don’t have to do my own work!

I’m writing a big epic opener for the 2010 APU Christmas Concert, with soloists, handbells, orchestra, choirs, the whole shebang. The piece opens with “Do You Hear What I Hear” sung by antiphonal choirs, and then into the final verse of that song:

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

The piece is not quite epic enough to sustain the energy through the end of the piece, so I’m looking to transition from the song “Do You See” to something else. This is the part where you help me out. Any suggestions?

To War and Back Again

Oh, my heart just aches sometimes.

Josiah and I went to war tonight.

“Please leave the door open.” Slam.

“Don’t touch that.” Poke.

“Sit down and finish eating.” Wail.

“Hold still please.” Kick.

Finally, barely fed and crammed into jammies, we slowed down just enough to read Christmas stories by candlelight, because my wife does many things well, but none better than planning perfect moments for the joy of others. So, we lit candles, spread a blanket on the floor, and read about a little girl whose father was off to war, so her mother cut apart her wedding dress to make a Christmas dress and doll for the girl, and then the two of them went into the woods at night to chop down a tree for the church pageant. Yeah, I cried a little.

And then I scooped up my boy, took him into his room, and shut off the light, forgetting to turn on his nightlight first. The room fell pitch black.

And in the perfect darkness, the rain dripping from the roof, he laid his head down on my shoulder, sighed deeply, and without words he declared his unconditional surrender.

I sang his lullaby to him in the darkness:

Lay down your head, Josiah
Lay down your head, though night is falling
The Lord protects his children through darkness
The Lord will guide your steps in the light

Long ago lived a boy named Josiah
He heard the voice of God in the night
Long ago the boy named Josiah
Led God’s children back into the light

So raise up your head, Josiah
Raise up your head, though night is falling
Hear the voice of God in the darkness
And lead his children back into the light

When I wrote it, Gretchen’s first comment was, “Wow, a little word of prophecy there, huh?” Maybe so.

I don’t know what’s ahead for Josiah and I, how many more times we’ll go to war and declare peace, or how much higher the stakes will get. I’m sure that there are nights coming when peace will cost significantly more than a song in the darkness. I don’t know how many moments in life we get like tonight, when you lift your son up, and he lays his head on your shoulder, and you try your best to weep softly so that you don’t break the magic of the moment.

He has both strength and tenderness, and I pray to God that both of them survive my parenting. I pray for wisdom and patience, to know when to be just and when to be merciful. I pray for strength that lasts through the day until I get home at night, so that he doesn’t always have to make his feast with the sparse remainder of my daily bread.

I pray that as he grows, he will look more and more like Jesus, and you can keep your damn bumper sticker. I mean that in all of the gritty ways. I pray that he learns when to braid a whip, that he has the strength to stand guard over an outcast woman and stare down an angry mob, that he speaks with fire and truth, that he spreads out a banquet for the friendless and unlovely. Most of those things, he’ll have to figure out on his own, because I don’t know how to do them.

I pray that he becomes a better man than I am.

God, you have blessed me through him. I hope that you bless him through me.

May we find peace at the end of every battle, and love, always love, no matter what.

josiah-and-daddy

It’s that time of year.

Christmas record time!

So, I’m doing a little solo record. It’s the first time ever for me. It’s an interesting process for a guy that is always trying to help someone else do their music. I’m not sure what I sound like on my own. So, I basically gave myself a narrow niche to fill, and dove in.

It’s a instrumental piano record, but not “solo piano” music. I’m building loops and grooves and “production” out of sounds I’m creating by playing, hitting, strumming and plucking our little Steinway. The vibe is pretty chill… the idea being that it’d be a nice easy background to your Christmas party. But, since I want to be able to market it to my church and some of the Worship Leader Mag connections, I’m keeping it all sacred Christmas hymns. So, no ‘Grandma Got Run Over’ on this one. And harmonically, it’s pretty consistent too… lots of add 9, add 4, plenty of minor 11, and an occasional plain ol’ major chord.

And since everyone that makes a record these days has videos of the process up on YouTube, I figured I’d better get with the program. Hopefully they’ll be somewhat interesting since I’m doing more than just sitting at the piano playing pretty. So, the first two vids are up, on YouTube and on my website. And of course, here.

Intro to the Christmas Record

Meet the Steinway

Behold, Emmanuel

So, this guy I know wrote this really cool choral piece for men’s choir.

I’ve gotten to know a very cool local choir director (she’s Zane’s piano teacher too) who roped me into playing percussion for a couple choir concerts, as well as doing a recording of her community choir singing last Christmas season’s program.

Like most music majors, I sang in the big choir at school, and was exposed to some pretty cool music back then. And like most “commercial” musicians, I don’t hear or write that sort of thing in the course of my typical pop/rock record production gigs.

So, inspired by this reemergence of “serious” choral music in my life, I thought maybe I should give it a try. Janine, the aforementioned choir director encouraged me to write something for Christmas, and offered to have the choir sing it, assuming it passed muster.

I came up with this.

behold_emmanuel_DEMO_071009.mp3

Behold, Emmanuel

Obviously this is just a demo… Thanks to Michelle, Alissa and Ryan for singing the parts I couldn’t.

Janine seems to like it. She’s offered to show it to a bunch of mucky-mucks she knows in that world, so who knows where it’ll go. I’m sure I’ll be losing all sorts of street cred as a hip pop/rock producer by dipping a toe in the choral music world, but I figure in the spirit of “lots of irons in the fire” it can’t hurt.

Let me know if you’d like to see the score… I’ll email it to you.

Christmas Chainsaw Massacre

If you’re wondering what to buy your 4-year-old and 6-year-old nephews, allow me to highly recommend getting them a toy chainsaw that makes real chainsaw noises, and also has a spinning beaded metal “chain” that causes burn marks when they slam it against their brother’s shin and pull the trigger.

Who wins this round of Christmas? Uncle Michael, that’s who.

10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

[flashvideo filename=http://addisonrd.com/WordPress/wp-content/video/charlie-brown-christmast-linus.swf /]

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders

10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

How much did Mary know about the things that were happening in her, and through her? How much of Isaiah and Micah had percolated into her understanding from brother or father, some man who had received some formal training, who had been taught to read the texts? When she breathed the word “Messiah”, what collection of ideas did that word stand in for?

Mary treasured up these things, and pondered them.

I would love to know the pathways that her mind ran down as she marveled. The months between the angel and the birth must have seemed an eternity – certainly long enough for doubt to creep in. Did he really say … does this really mean … will he really be …

When the shepherds arrived, with stories and songs, it must have been a flood of emotions, confirming everything that Mary had been told.

Unto you is born this day a child, and He is Christ the Lord.

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

What an absurd celebration we have embraced to remember the incarnation.

We celebrate by filling up. Calendars, full. CD players, full. Gift lists, full. Credit cards, full. Belly, full. Every moment of this season is dedicated, months in advance, to being filled up. Not all of the filling up things are bad things – time with friends and family are good things, gifts given out of selflessness and friendship are always a good thing.

But taken all-together, the result is a season that is every moment filled up, without a second to breathe, and no time to think or reflect.

What an absurd way to celebrate the incarnation. I wish we could push all of that to Easter, the great celebration. Let’s move our Lenten fast to Christmas, and celebrate the incarnation by imitation.

Who, being in very substance God, did not consider his divine prerogatives as things to be gripped tightly, but emptied himself. Made himself nothing. Humbled himself.

This is the Christmas story that has captured me. The folding down of the divine person into the frail and corruptible human story, the setting aside of every perfect glory to take up this mundane flesh. All the redeeming that is to come begins in that moment.

Christmas is the great emptying out.

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders

10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

As sung by the APU Men’s Choir. Sorry this link will only work if you have a facebook account, but it is so amazing, it might be worth signing up just to hear it. We saw this concert live twice, and got a little weepy both times.

UPDATED: Here’s the same thing, now hosted on YouTube for all to hear.

Of The Father’s Love Begotten
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framèd; He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis

10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

We don’t know if Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. We like to think she did, because what kind of a jerk would make his pregnant wife walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem?

But that raises a different question, one I haven’t heard much about. Why did Mary make the trip at all? The census (maybe, probably) required only the male head of household to register, so Joseph could have legally made the trip alone.

I don’t know much about 1st Century Judean birthing practices, but somehow I don’t picture the husband hunched over the birthing bed, coaching his wife through her Lamaze breathing. I’m going to rely on the evidence of pre-1980′s world-wide cultural norms here, and say that most of the time the husband waited in the front room smoking the hookah with the fellas while the women of the family (and maybe a trained midwife) coached the mother through her labor. The husbandly role, throughout history, has been to fret nervously in a different room, then boisterously take credit once the child is born. Mary didn’t need Joseph around during the delivery, she needed her family, her female relatives, the local support network. Why go to Bethlehem?

The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 100 miles, through some rough terrain, and the hill country along the way was constantly populated with bandits (the parable of the Good Samaritan starts with a man being mugged along some of these same roads).  I got nervous when my wife walked a few miles through Rome on a hot summer day while pregnant. I can’t imagine Joseph’s stress over Mary making the trip with him through that rough country. Again, why make the trip? Why not leave Mary in the care of her family while Joseph went to fulfill his legal obligation.

Luke tells us why Joseph went to Bethlehem. Why did Mary go?

There are a few possibilities, I guess. Maybe Joseph was a thoroughly modern and sensitive husband, and just couldn’t stand the thought of his wife giving birth without his support. Maybe Mary was a rock-hard badass, and the thought of grunting out our Lord and Savior un-aided in the barren rocks above Jericho just made her shout, “Bring it on!” Maybe Luke invented the census and the trip to Bethlehem in order to make the birth narrative fit Micah’s prophesy, in which case of course Mary had to go along.

There is another possibility. Maybe Mary had no reason to stay. Maybe the embarrassment of the pregnancy left her estranged from her friends and relatives, with no support and no family. Maybe nobody had added up the dates yet, and everyone was assuming it was Joseph’s child. Perhaps Mary was eager for a chance to get out of town, and give birth away from the chattering gossips and back-biting spinsters, away from the prying questions that an actual birth date would inevitably give rise to.

I don’t know. Maybe you have some better ideas.
laboroflove.mp3

labor of love
photo by introspectre

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

The story of the birth, as told by Matthew.

Matthew_01.mp3

The story of the birth, as retold by Andrew Peterson.

matthews-begats.mp3

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey

10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

And Mary danced before the Lord. Hands raised, head thrown back, spinning with the joy of the young, an innocent girl in the presence of a Holy God. And Mary sang.

His mercy extends to those who fear him
from generation to generation
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts
he has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones.

empty-throneThe last shall be first, and the first shall be last. The humble will rejoice. The proud will be brought low. We celebrate Christmas as the advent of peace and hope – but also as the emphatic statement of God’s intent to upend the established order. The Kingdom of God brings down rulers from their thrones. It raises up the humble. It gives voice to the voiceless, and makes a mockery of those who cling too tightly to this world.

When we read the Christmas story, perhaps we should pay more attention to the role of Herod. Christmas is the great subversion of Herod’s kingdom, and those who, like Herod, abuse their power. “Peace on Earth” is a rallying cry – peace is coming, and it will come on the backs of those who love violence and celebrate fear. For them, Christmas is the first rumblings of the coming revolution, the beginning of God’s culminating restoration and remaking.

Peace on Earth. But fear and trembling for those who love their thrones.

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1

Advent Reminder

Every year, I have to ask Doug to remind me what the weeks in advent stand for. Since I don’t have a handy notebook near, I’m posting this here to remind me throughout the season, and so that I can find it with a snappy little blog search next year.

Advent is four weeks long. The four weeks are:

  1. Hope – the Prophet
  2. Love – the Holy Family
  3. Joy – the Shepherds
  4. Peace – the Magi

On week 5, we celebrate the traditional “80-Proof Christmas” candle, wherein all music pastors pass out from exhaustion and slip into the numb embrace of Bookers.

Creative By Committee: A Christmas Miracle

In this week’s episode of the popular and ongoing “Creative by Committee” series, the fabulous collective musical genius of the roadhouse will be helping The Right Revered Professor Lee (DMA, MA, SPF, Esq.) assemble the musical soundtrack to that most miraculous of seasons, Stressmas. NervousBreakdownmas. Noseefamilymas. Can I get a shout out from all the pastors in the house?

So, I’m looking for three things this christmasy season. First, I’m in desperate and immediate need of choir music suitable for eager and hardworking seasonal choir members of limited reading experience. In token and pledge of gifts to come, I present to you “Child of Peace“, done by our choir last year, freely yours to use this year. Dan, I’m looking your way. Share the love. The lovely, lovely love. If your piece is picked, you will be the proud winner of a complementary set of rehearsal tracks, recorded for my choir, free to use for yours.

Second, I’m looking for hymns, psalms and spiritual songs that have fallen by the wayside, and deserve to be picked up, dusted off, and lovingly reused as either congregational worship or special music, possibly with string quartet. Chad, I know you have some good good in your back pocket for this one. Aly, I’m looking at you too.

Finally, most contempo worship for Christmas belongs in the crap drawer, next to contemporary music for weddings and contemporary music for funerals. If you happen to be in secretive possession of that most elusive of finds, a singable up-tempo modern Christmas song that doesn’t make you want to drink yourself into oblivion and start a fist-fight with the nearest lyricist, then by all means, share.

It is hereby moved and seconded, the motion carries, Creative by Committee is now in season … er … session.