Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sabbath Reflections: Writing in a Minor Key

Thanksgiving is over. This means I can officially write blog posts about Christmas.

If you weren’t aware of this deadline, it’s probably because you are either surrounded by happy-go-lucky elves who started playing carols after Labor Day or Grinches who might work up a tiny scrap of holiday cheer by Christmas Eve. Maybe.

However, let me assure any doubters out there that this is a legitimate, if somewhat arbitrary measurement. So here we go.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” You know why?

Because it’s in a minor key.

Yep. That’s right. I love the songs of the season, but sometimes they come a tinsel-thread away from making you overdose on holly-jolly cheeriness. Everything is joy and merriment and all of that great stuff. And, really, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Part of me, though, realizes that not everything at this time of year is happy. Listening to that song reminds me that there’s something missing in our world, even at Christmas. There are people out there who are hurting and crying out for peace on Earth that never seems to come.

But wait, you say. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is set before the Messiah came. The song is about a captive world waiting for the Messiah.

True. But I would argue that we’re still waiting for the Messiah in a way. Yes, Jesus came. His death and resurrection delivered us from the power of sin and death and suffering.

But he didn’t deliver us from the presence of sin and death and suffering. Not yet.

It’s coming. But right now, we’re still waiting. Christmas should remind us of the many reasons that we have to be joyful and thankful – but it should also stir a sense of longing in us, longing for something more.

I love songs like this, ones that can say, “Rejoice,” in the chorus but still sound mournful, because that’s what I feel like sometimes. And I love stories like this, ones that skip the easy, feel-good happy ending and strike at the heart of what it means to be living in a fallen world.

We’re stuck between “already” and “not yet,” and the best writing captures the joy and longing of both.

To-Do List: Write a story in a minor key – one with a happy ending that might not seem to be happy at first.

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