Christmas in a Minor Key

One of my favorite Christmas songs has always been “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I love the words. I love how it tells the tale of expectant longing for Christ’s first coming, and drives us to long for the second. But I also love it because it’s in a minor key. I have a soft spot for songs in a minor key. I grew up loving music for many reasons—one of them is how music is evocative. Music makes us feel. And as one who feels deeply and also tends towards melancholy, a minor key suits me.

Advent is a time of looking backwards and looking forward. As believers in Christ, we have great joy in Christ’s incarnation, his life, his death, and his resurrection. His first coming secured our salvation and gave us hope for the future. But we also are longing for him to come again. Much like the Israelites who came before us, we are living in a minor key. We are living in a world filled with ache, sorrow, loss, sin, and darkness. Yes, Christ has come, but all is still not right, and we often feel it in our bones.

This line from “O Holy Night” has been ringing in my ears this Christmas season:

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Doesn’t that sound like our world? Do you ache? Are you weary? Is your Christmas season playing in a minor key? There is much to hope for, but also much to make us long for something better.

Even in Christmases of plenty and joy, difficulty can often be inter-mixed. Maybe you are enjoying the wonder-filled eyes of your children’s first Christmas memories, but you hold painful memories or unfulfilled longings along with the joy. Maybe your life is finally full with the things you prayed for, but the cost was more than your heart can bear. Or maybe you have none of these things. Just ache. Just pain. Just life in a minor key.

If you live long enough you will face the ache of life in a broken world, a minor key. You will either come to terms with it, or fight it in frustration, but it must be acknowledged. At some point, everyone will all be walking through Christmas a little defeated and ready for the calendar to turn over with a fresh year. Christmas is about joy, but it’s also telling of a coming pain because Good Friday is coming. Christmas is about hope, but it’s not without the dark cloud of death that hovers over the cradle where the sleeping Jesus lay. Christmas is about salvation, but it also reminds us that many trials must be endured before we get to glory.

Christmas is reminding us that we need the second coming, too. Yes, he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found, but a quick survey of the world reminds us that the curse isn’t defeated in full yet. This leaves us often weary, broken, and sorrowful many a Christmas.

So if your Christmas is in a minor key this year, or your Christmas letter isn’t as peppy as you want it to be, you aren’t alone. You are in a long line of sad Christians who longed for the darkness to lift and ached for a better life. Christmas in a minor key won’t last forever. His first coming promises that.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel