My all-time favorite Christmas album was recorded in 1961 by the late Stan Kenton and his orchestra. The original title, A Merry Christmas, sounds rather bland and doesn’t suit the recording at all. Kenton re-released the album in the 1970’s with the title Kenton’s Christmas, the version to which I was first exposed. I bought the album in the early 70’s and played it so much that I’m surprised I didn’t wear holes in it. A few years ago, a box of records we had in storage were damaged beyond restoration, and the most heart-rending loss was my beloved copy of Kenton’s Christmas.
Every year, just past Thanksgiving, The urge to play that record rises up within me. I’ve tried to replace it without success; it’s been out of print for years, and even the most aggressive used record stores haven’t been much help. It was released on Compact Disc during the early 90’s “re-release everything ever recorded” era, but like hundreds of other titles it was soon dropped from the catalog. The CD is even harder to find than the vinyl, and in good condition it demands a premium price that’s beyond my budget.
One day, while looking through a shelf of records in our family room, I came across something that positively floored me. A copy of Kenton’s Christmas, the very record that we had been hunting for so long! The discovery left me flabbergasted. Where had it come from? We had purchased a box or two of records at estate sales, and I thought it may have been hiding among those like a diamond among dime-store jewels, but when I placed it on the turntable and gently set the stylus on the spinning platter, my ears perked up and I had to remind myself to breathe. It was MY old copy! I recognized the sound immediately; it has a slight warp that produces an audible, cyclical noise throughout the quiet opening of O Come All Ye Faithful. After all that effort—years of searching through garage sales, estate sales, and used record shops—I found the very album I had tried to replace, right there on my record shelf!
In the days when Jesus was born, all Israel searched the scriptures, debated, searched, and prayed. They watched and waited for their Messiah. When He came, most of those searchers didn’t see Him. I now have a new understanding of how that can happen, how people can miss seeing something that’s right in front of them. In my younger days, I did exactly the same thing with God.
We all have a basic need for spiritual fulfilment that some have referred to as “a God-shaped vacuum.” That basic need drives us to search for God, and Christmas brings that drive to the surface. That’s why so many people attend church on Christmas or Christmas Eve who don’t darken the door the other eleven months of the year. Christmas, like no other season, provides warm, fuzzy, even spiritual, feel-good opportunities—perfectly good activities that I’m not criticizing at all—that many people try to fit into that “God-shaped vacuum” to fill their spiritual voids.
Unfortunately, all that perfectly good activity won’t fill that void, any more than a band-aid will fix a heart attack. After all the Christmas activity has passed, they find themselves feeling emptier than when they began, discouraged, depressed, and stricken with the “After-Christmas Blues.” All the while, the very thing that they were searching for in the first place is right there in front of them, but they can’t see it. Jesus, the one whose birth we’re celebrating, came to be the bridge that spanned the gap between us and our Heavenly Father, and gives us the opportunity to fill that “God shaped vacuum” with the one and only thing that will fit: an intimate relationship with God.
Stop searching. He’s right there, right in front of you, right now. “A savior, who is Christ the Lord.”