Breath of Heaven brings clarity to Christmas season

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I’ve always been one of those people annoyed by the fact that the Christmas season gets cranked up earlier and earlier every year.

It just doesn’t feel right to go straight from haunted houses and Halloween screams to Christmas carols and nativity scenes without a suitable transition.

But this year, it didn’t bother me so much when I spotted scary skeleton costumes sharing shelf space next to stuffed Santa Claus dolls at the local Walmart.

That’s because lately I’ve been in need of some positive energy, and a little pre-Advent Christmas cheer was just the ticket. If Tom Turkey had to get tossed to the curb and suffer another year of unwarranted neglect, then so be it. Besides, who else gets a perennial presidential pardon? He’ll be okay.

Regular readers of Viewpoint – aka, The Pointer Nation – may remember a few months ago I declared a moratorium on my unquenchable consumption of current events in an attempt to stem the unending newsfeed’s corrosive effects on my joie de vivre.

I described how I had foolishly allowed myself to get caught up in the sinister vortex that is the 24-hour news cycle, which seems to swirl exponentially more intense and out of control with every passing nanosecond. I use the term “news” loosely here because much of what defiles our society and corrupts our culture is dim-witted celebrity claptrap, senseless gossip, promotional pabulum and idiotic, ill-informed, dishonest, hyperbolic commentary – calling it news would make Walter Cronkite hurl all over his reporter’s notepad.

In an effort to cleanse my system from all the warped, distorted, filthy waste product that pollutes and poisons the public domain, I decided to reduce my exposure and gradually wean myself off this toxic teat.

First off, my plan required pulling the plug on the car radio. That might seem like a simple step, but not when you live in the Greater Baton Rouge area. If you’ve ever had to battle bumper-to-bumper Baton Rouge traffic, you know I’m not exaggerating when I say I spend at least two hours a day in my car, creeping along, switching from gas pedal to brake pedal, gas pedal to brake pedal. I feel like that clogger in Riverdance constantly jiggling my right foot in stop-and-go-but-mostly-stop traffic.

So, that leaves me with at least two hours a day of dead silence, broken only by the occasional creaking of the dashboard, the low hum of the engine turning, the hushed whir of the heater fan, the key fob clanging against the steering column. At first, the silence started giving me the willies and making me feel jittery and uneasy. I started hallucinating and seeing things that weren’t there. I’d share some of those things, but you might have me committed.

While they were taking me away to Jackson, I’d have to explain to my attendants how difficult it is to purge the paranoia after decades of paying too much attention to all the things that are going to get us: ebola, e-coli, swine flu, West Nile, ISIS, Boko Haram, global warming, coastal erosion, hunger, poverty, school shooters, the ozone hole, nuclear holocaust, high cholesterol, Russia (again), China (I think they already got us), Iran, Iraq, the mafia, the Klan, pinko commies, fracking, the Ferguson police, the Keystone Pipeline, Willie Horton, meteors, liberals, conservatives, those dastardly (insert race/culture/gender/religion that’s not your own), Martians, Big Foot, the Boggy Creek Monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, King Kong, Miley Cyrus…just to name a few.

Of course, I could opt for dialing in some music channels, but the only music I like is Classic Rock. And you can only listen to Duran Duran for so long before you start to fall Asleep Asleep.

It took a few weeks to acclimate, but the steady silence is starting to become more comfortable. I find I’m a little more chill behind the wheel, I drive slower and feel less rushed, and I no longer reflexively reach for the radio button every time I hop into the car.

There’s still the issue of how to fill the void that the current events stream used to occupy in my quiet automotive sanctum, and that’s where Christmas comes in. Since the commercial interests have insisted on stretching out the holiday season as long as possible to keep those cash registers ringing, it’s prompted me earlier than normal to cue up my own Christmas playlist in my head and happily hum those melodies I most associate with the season as I slog through the metropolitan traffic mash-up.

Better than tuning in to one of those all-Christmas radio stations where I risk getting gagged on a nauseating dose of Justin Bieber’s holiday album Under the Mistletoe, relying on my mental playlist allows me to select the songs that never fail to draw me into the Christmas spirit. The list includes old favorites such as Tennessee Christmas, Christmas in Dixie, The Angels Cried and many standards performed by legendary crooners like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Elvis. Occasionally, some of the more off-beat tracks from Christmases past will pay a visit, such as Mannheim Steamroller and Leon Redbone.

But topping my all-time personal list of Christmas tunes, the one song that really encapsulates for me the reason for the season, the song I’ve been humming repeatedly from behind the steering wheel, is Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song). There are several on-line versions of Grant singing this song, which movingly describes how the mother of Christ must have felt carrying the Son of God, with all her doubts, fears and insecurities. Most stirring is from the Hour of Power TV show, but they all choke me up.

For this Christmas, I wish you and those important to you a season filled with peace, joy and love…and enough silence and calm in your busy life to let the spirit move within you so that you may better hear the breath of heaven.

What’s your all-time favorite Christmas song? E-mail me at billygibson@alec.coop and let me know.

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