(Re)thinking Christmas: Music
I felt pretty good after writing “Loathing Christmas.” It was good to get all those hard feelings out in the open, but then I felt guilty – like I had just chewed out my best friend or stole candy from a baby. There just seems to be something inherently wrong about bashing Christmas. Maybe I was a little too hard on the holiday, but then, Christmas has been around for a long time and has lots of fans. So, I think it can handle the heat. Besides, I’m all about being transparent.
God gave me hope last year for Christmas future in a little concert called, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It rocked the Christmas stockings right off my feet. (Just to be clear, I wasn’t actually wearing Christmas stockings. I tried on the ones that hang on my mantel every year and they were too big and sparkly. It would’ve been awkward.)
Now, as you know, I’m not a Christmas person, but a little known fact about me is that I’m not a concert person either. It’s just not my thing. So, you can imagine my excitement when a girl I didn’t know very well at the time, sent an email last year inviting me to a Christmas concert. I was skeptical to say the least; but to be honest, I felt so incredibly honored that this person thought to ask me personally that I couldn’t say no. So, I paid my $15 and went. That might’ve been the single most important decision I made (and the best $15 I ever spent) in 2009. No kidding.
If you have never had the chance to go see Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” concert, you are missing out. Find a concert near you and run head first as fast as you can to get a ticket. Or you could just leave the running shoes in the closet (or at the store if running isn’t your thing), save yourself a jog and click this link.
I have to chuckle as I think back to the attitude I had walking into the concert venue. I had such low expectations. I had no idea who these people were or what to expect.
Was this a classical concert?
Would there be an orchestra?
Is there acting?
Is there dancing?
Well, much to my delight, the concert wasn’t any of those things. It was a bunch of uber-cool guys (and one girl) who were about my age that can play about 900 instruments each and who have been blessed with an awesome gift in the art of writing music that tells a story. God showed up among those extraordinarily talented singer/songwriters at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church that night and changed not only my Christmas, but ultimately, my life.
The concert is broken down into two parts. The first part of the concert gives each artist an opportunity to perform some of their original songs. From the moment the musicians/artists/what-have-you took the stage, I was captivated. I hadn’t been to a concert in years, but I was diggin’ it.
These guys – these awesome vessels of the Lord – were not only talented but they were hilarious. I’m not just talking about being funny. I’m talking about disgustingly charming, humble and hilarious people who made their audience feel at home. Last year, the tour was made up of Andrew Peterson, Ben Shive, Andrew Osenga, Andy Gullahorn, Jill Phillips and Brandon Heath among others.
The second half of the concert is spent playing in sequence the “Behold the Lamb of God“ album. The opening reading is from “The Jesus Storybook Bible“ by Sally Lloyd-Jones and goes something like this:
No, the bible isn’t a book of rules or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a story. It’s an adventure story about a young hero who comes from a far country to win back His lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave prince who leaves His palace, His throne, everything to rescue the one He loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life. You see, the best thing about this story is: it’s true.
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one big story: the story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this story, and at the center of the story is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers His name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle. The piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.
Now, if I wasn’t captivated by the first part of the concert, that opening caught me by my heartstrings and didn’t let go. Seriously, even as I typed that out, I got goose bumps, butterflies in my stomach and tears in my eyes.
Andrew Peterson then proceeds to transform seemingly ordinary Bible stories – stories that I’ve heard a million times – stories that I heard as a child and read an adult – and weaves them into a seamless story about the coming of Christ. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful, and it’s true!
I don’t know how to describe to you in words the change that this two hours had on my life. Just having the Bible explained to me that way was like a veil lifting (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). It was like God took me up in hot air balloon and slowly adjusted my eyes so that they began to focus on a beautiful painting. A painting filled with magnificent hues that highlighted each stroke pointing to Jesus – a painting that took 55 generations and 2,000 years to complete. A painting that tells one story across 66 books and over 31,000 verses. It’s the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen. I think I fell in love with God that day.
Now, I don’t want to give this concert more credit than it deserves, but I do have to give props to The Almighty for using it to remove the veil from my eyes and for using my dear friend, who I’ve come to know and love, to turn my walk with God upside down. Had she not taken the chance and asked me to go, coffee with Christ wouldn’t exist.
I’ve listened to that album a million times since the concert. (Actually, it’s close to 100 if you trust the counter in iTunes). I had all the songs memorized in two days.
I sang it in the car sitting in traffic;
I sang it at home; and I listened to it at work.
I loved it so much that I couldn’t part with it once Christmas was over.
I listen to it year-round.
Sadly, this year, “Behold the Lamb of God” isn’t coming to Birmingham. But I won’t let that stop me. I’m going with some friends to see it in Huntsville, and I’m so excited I can’t stand it. I’m so thankful for Andrew Peterson and his crew. I’m so grateful that God gave them the ability to play 900 instruments and write the greatest songs.
So, whenever I get into a bah-hum-bug spirit this year (and even when I’m not), I’ll put in my headphones, close my eyes, and let Andrew Peterson paint a picture of a God that is bigger than Christmas. A God that loved me so much that He came down to rescue me. I can hear the familiar beat of the opening drums …and Andrew Peterson’s melodic voice singing:
Gather ‘round, ye children come
Listen to the old, old story
of the power of death undone
by an infant born of glory
Son of God
Son of Man…