Today, in liturgical Western Christianity, it is the 10th day of Christmas. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the extended edition of the holiday! Unfortunately, this essay is not a celebration of Christmas, but rather an explanation of why I have often found it disappointing recently in life, because of a disconnect between the promise and the reality. Every time Christmas comes around, I think of a classical sacred choral piece that I’ve performed in multiple different choirs in youth and adulthood, from Mendelssohn’s Christus, namely “Es Wird ein Stern aus Jakob Aufgeh’n” (“There shall come a star out of Jacob”).
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Jesus, on the cross (Luke 23:34) My grandfather always used to love telling a certain anecdote about Calvin Coolidge. He was a man of such few words that one time, President Coolidge went to hear a world-famous preacher preach. Upon returning from the sermon, his wife asked what it was about. He replied “sin.” Not satisfied with the answer, the wife asked, “Well, what did the preacher have to say about sin?
I just finished singing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in a concert as a member of the Grace Church Choral Society, and it was the most technically difficult piece I have ever sung in a choir. It was a single piece of concert length, a mass setting, as is custom for our spring concerts. It was all in one language: in this case, in Latin. This is different from our holiday concerts in the winter, where we sing a variety of Christmas-y and otherwise celebratory works in a variety of (European, Christian) languages, including English.
[Jesus said:] You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.