vowels and consonants

My favorite Christmas song is ‘O Holy Night’. I have about 12 different versions of it on my ipod, and I’m always looking for more. I love this song no less now than I did when I believed fervently in its every word. I love it in spite of its message, which I don’t agree with, and maybe even because of it. This is kind of like the same inexplicable way in which I love my Christian friends not in spite of, but because of their beliefs.

It’s a tetris game that I finished playing a long time ago, but even though I’ve discarded it, it still has meaning to me because of the time spent laying those pieces.

Before I moved to Alaska, I went once to a Unitarian-Universalist church. The congregation sang a hymn out of the hymnal that was to the tune of ‘Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus’ but with different words. I happen to love ‘Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,’ and I was quite glad to be able to sing the music of that song without its original words. But somehow, I didn’t like the UU version as much as the original. I had sung ‘Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus’ for years and I didn’t like its vowels and consonants uprooted and scrambled.

Given time, I could come to love the new version. I am quite glad that there is such a thing as the UU hymnal, that the wonderful music of Christian hymns is recycled and set to more meaningful words. If there were a UU fellowship in my town, I would go and sing and love those songs.

I don’t know if I could love another ‘O Holy Night’ as much as I love the original, though.  This song is very much steeped in memory for me. It has been my favorite ever since I first sang it in high school. “Fall on your knees, and hear the angel voices”—those vowels and consonants are not only etched in my mind, they are tangled up with memories and epiphanies, which are harder to supplant. But I don’t mind it. I still belt out “Christ is the Lord” at the top of my voice when I listen to it in the privacy of my apartment. I love the words for their vowels and consonants, just not their meaning.


2 thoughts on “vowels and consonants

  1. Lily Post author

    Fun coincidence: one of the automatically generated links above is about a retreat at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference. Harvey Cedars Bible Conference was the location of the first church retreat I ever went to, soon after I became a Christian, about 11 years ago. I still have the t-shirt.

    I love probability.

  2. Helen

    When I was moving away from Christianity I realized I do like a lot of the words – love, joy, hope, peace, just not the sentences they are in.

    I also like what some of the stories symbolize even though I no longer have a belief that they’re true.

    I learned Christmas carols as a child so my liking of (some of) them isn’t specifically Christian anyway. But I also still listen to some of the Christian songs I used to like – sometimes. Sometimes I feel like it and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the sentences bug me more than other times.

    Evangelicals have tended to make Christianity a very left-brained thing. I like the parts my right brain connects with; I like it when it’s a work of art (even some sermons are works of art, like those by NT Wright and John Stott, because of the words they choose and how eloquently they put them together). I like what Christians do with Bible stories considered as a right-brain act of creativity. But it bothers me if they imply “this is The Truth and my interpretation/application is also The Truth” Many Bible characters showed courage etc which is inspirational. But that’s also true of many characters in novels. I find them just as inspirational as Bible characters.

    Btw I enjoy coincidences too 🙂

    I still like some of the Christian songs


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