Last week my wife and I headed down to Nassau Street in Dublin – a formidable journey given that Grafton Street, the main artery by which one makes this trip, is the human equivalent of an L.A. freeway.
We were meeting a friend at K. C. Peaches, a lovely establishment for breakfast or a little noshing. And no, it's not Bob Evans, but it'll do....
Anyway, here we were munching on coffee cake and sipping our café Americano. And as any musician would do, I had one ear turned to the music that was playing in the background. Here's a partial list of what I overheard:
"It's the Holiday Season" – Andy Williams
"O Come, All Ye Faithful" – Bing Crosby
"Hallelujah Chorus" – Neville Marriner, St. Martin in the Fields
"O Tannenbaum" – Vince Guaraldi
"Santa Baby" – probably Madonna, but by then I stopped listening
I found myself fascinated by this soundtrack, accompanying our caffeine and cake.
For at what other time of the year does sacred music invade the marketplace in such a manner? When, lunching with a friend, a triumphant song about Jesus blasts from the Muzak speakers above your head? And does so, unabashedly, without apology? As if this is the most normal thing in all the universe.
It is an invasion, that's what it is – manufactured of straw and circumstance, manure and makeshift plans. The most vulnerable of stories, born of poverty. And yet it has permeated every corner of our secular world, in ways that no ad campaign, no sum of money, could ever concoct. And this story continues, and will, far beyond this day.
We would do well, in this age of fake news, arms and aggression, to consider the stories that have prevailed, to acknowledge where true might resides, to put no trust in the princes of this earth (as is recommended by the psalmist). We would do well to consider that two thousand years later, this implausible story of poverty and God-becoming-man still holds us to its challenges.
Nollaig shona duit – a happy Christmas to all our friends, to those who have kept us in prayer far across the waters, to all who have been an encouragement in this grand venture of following the Voice far beyond what is known and comfortable.