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Not Christmas Yet

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Decor offerings went up extra early in big box stores this year. Countless retailers held their "Black Friday" sales early too, all nervously predicting a milder holiday rush compared to the house-arrested spending sprees of 2020.

It does feel like the fanfare arrives earlier each year. Maybe in a year like this last one a lot of us are just anxious to have something to look forward to. The holidays can feel a little like a pause button on the normal parts of life that are tough.

But no matter what the chain stores and emails tell me, it's not Christmas yet until i hear a particular song. Do you have a song like that?

Mine is "Christmas Time is Here" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. It was played in my home growing up, and no matter what stage of life I find myself in, that song is the green light that we are officially in the thick of it.

Music is powerful stuff. It can take us to memories we cherish (or wish to forget) in an instant. Scientists are barely scratching the surface of how music and our memory even work. Music has a direct effect on a large group of people feeling connected to one another¹. Music opens our emotional pathways in the brain.

Around this time of year, we all get barraged with Mariah Carey, the Beattles, and Wham! singing their timeless holiday hits. If you wander down to Snowflake Lane in Bellevue you'll get a energetic playlist of every single Christmas carol that doesn't mention Christ. Don't get me wrong, soap-bubble snow and polar bears handing out lollipops are a good time, but a Christ-less Christmas just doesn't have the magic for me. Even still, we all know the words to all those songs don't we? The point is, we all recognize the soundtrack to this time of year.

Last month we got word that Doxa wouldn't have to move out of our facility until March when our new building is ready in Redmond, WA. Our skeleton staff had been prepping for that huge moment, so with the new delay and resulting "relief" we re-examined what to focus our energy on.

Our crazy-talented and super faithful Tech Director, Justin Hugus asked me if I thought it was a good idea to take the recordings of Christmas songs from 2020's online liturgies, spice them up a bit, and release a Christmas album. We knew it would finish and release pretty close to Christmas, but it felt like the right kind of manic sprint to the finish line.

It was a labor of love and we made it just in time. These five songs are our gift to you, meant to fill our homes with Christ-exalting songs we know well, but now can hear as an extension of our own church and many of the amazing people that serve in our music ministry. These servants have been some of the most consistent and resilient people in our whole church the last two years, and I can't say enough good things about them. In the midst of personal hardship, career rollercoasters, and family chaos, they have shown up over and over with a heart to minister to you, our members.

You'll notice there are no drums and lots of strings in these songs, which gives them an orchestral feel. This feels like a reflection of the peaceful and hopeful headspace we find ourselves in as the year closes.

These songs are meant to be a blessing to our people this year, and each of the songs tell pieces of the Christmas story. We want these simple songs to remind us that Christmas nostalgia is a shared experience and can be a beautiful thing, but what really matters is remembering the God-man, come to earth, with lowly beginnings. His birth, life, death, and resurection wont fit under a tree, but it's what all of us need more than anything. This year's chaos has proven that over and over.

So enjoy the songs. Enjoy your holiday. Enjoy one of our Christmas gatherings. But slow down this week and enjoy your Savior too. After all, Jesus Christ is better than polar bears.

Pastor Donald

(You can listen to our "Songs for Advent" album on the Doxa app, found here.)

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¹ https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_music_bonds_us_together

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