The Grinch Who Stole My Music

Ray Coniff Christmas Album Cover

I love music. Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that I’ll start raving about Gordon Lightfoot or talking about the choral groups I’m a part of or breaking into a pop song that fits the situation. If a friend says, “I’m leaving from Dulles tomorrow,” I might bust out with

You’re leavin’ on a jet plane

But I know when you’ll be back again

Oh, man, do you need some kind of ride?

Most people (but not all) appreciate my efforts.

So clearly I love music. I know I wrote that at the beginning, but by repeating that, I hope you’ll realize how much I love music. There—that was a third time. Somebody stop me!

The point to all this chatter about how much I love music (fourth time) is that this year, I am not going to listen to secular Christmas songs. In other years, I would have listened to some of my favorite songs like “Believe,” “Little Saint Nick” and “The Peace Carol,” but not this year.

Why this sudden change? Why religious songs and not the secular ones? Have I suddenly become a zealot who wants to burn all the Ray Conniff Christmas albums or stop people on the street to educate them about the creeping evil of secularism?

Not quite.

I’m just not in the mood. My father spent most of 2014 in doctors’ offices and died of multiple organ failure in January. I received 49 radiation treatments for cancer in 2013 (the treatment was successful, thank God) and dealt with a number of side effects. Mass shootings and acts of terrorism dominated the media.

I know, people suffer and die every year, sometimes in horrible ways. What’s the difference this year?

I don’t know. I have simply reached a tipping point and don’t want to hear about how Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer saved the day.

Please don’t call me up to recommend a psychiatrist or offer some medication. I appreciate it, but I’m in as good a mood as I can be. And please don’t quote scripture at me. I’m no theologian, but I am Baptist and have studied the Bible for about 63 years. (We start early and don’t quit.) One horrible year, I recounted all the bad things that happened and ended by saying the next year had to be better, and it was. Some helpful soul wrote an email reminding me of Paul’s admonition to give thanks in all circumstances. In the first place, I was aware of the verse. In the second, Paul did not tell us to be happy when we’re in prison or bitten by a snake but rather to realize that God is still with us and cares for us. I believe this even though I won’t sing about jolly old Saint Nicholas this year.

The title of this piece refers to the Grinch, and I ask you, Who’s the Grinch? Is it I? Is it disease or war or terrorism or starvation or suffering? Or is it the overblown celebration of the birth of a simple peasant baby?

It’s up to you. You decide.

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