Following the Rules

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When do you start listening to Christmas music?

I used to belong to the ‘not until after Thanksgiving’ school. One holiday at a time – let’s follow the rules, hey? Then I discovered the liturgical community, who eschew Christmas music until Christmas Eve. Until then, only Advent music (you know, that dirge-like, minor-key stuff) is allowed.

And they are just as militant about their musical beliefs as the after-Thanksgiving folk. Although I now consider myself part of the liturgical crowd, I never could jump on board with this. Instead, I argued that traditional Christmas music IS the preparatory music of our era. I made little headway with them, nor they with me. After all, we each know that we’re the one who has it ‘right’. Right?

Every year, people come to verbal blows about when to listen to Christmas music. But, really, this is such an insignificant issue in the larger scheme of things. It’s no wonder our world is so full of strife! And we lose opportunities for joy when we spat about these arbitrary rules.

Over the years, I’ve loosened up a lot. These days, I wear white after Labor Day. (Avert your eyes if you must.) I drink bubbly whenever I feel like it, not just for special occasions. And I listen to Christmas music any time I please – be it November or even July.SONY DSC

My goal this year is to follow only the important rules and to let go the rest. But what is important? Well, this being the Christmas season and all, I decided to look to Jesus, who says ‘judge not, lest you be judged.’ (I think he means this to apply to music as well as everything else.) He says ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ (And everyone is my neighbor, according to him. Even dirge lovers.)

Most importantly, he says, ‘I was hungry and you fed me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you took care of me. How did you do these things? As you do it for the poor, you do it for me.’

These are the ‘rules’ that matter. It’s not about when I listen to certain music; whether I sit, stand or kneel while listening to particular types of music; or if I wear selective colors (or styles) of clothes. Instead, it’s:

Have I loved? Have I welcomed the stranger? Have I fed, clothed, and cared about others? Have my resources – including my taxes – been spent to help the poor?

Because this is what Jesus said and what he did, and if I’m going to truly follow him, it’s what I need to do, too.

May the new year bring less division, and may we all remember the actions and attitudes that matter. (And quit bickering over the ones that don’t.)

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