For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
As iconic Christmas symbols, nutcrackers don’t offer much beyond decorative interest. They’re not exactly utilitarian either (I tried to crack a nut in a nutcracker once and the poor thing broke its jaw!), and, on the surface, they don’t offer any obvious theological tie-ins. But, there they are, and it’s tough to take a photograph around Maul-Hall in December without having one of the little blighters photo-bomb some other Advent scene.
More seasonal, for me, is Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet. This weekend, Rebekah and I were guests at Raleigh’s City Ballet, where a friend’s daughter danced splendidly in a spirited, fun production that we enjoyed immensely.
Typically, ballet – like opera – is nowhere near my first choice in terms of entertainment. But I love the Nutcracker for its buoyancy, its memorable music, its lack of esoteric artistic snobbery, its effervescence, and its intoxicating sense of joie de vivre.
Most of all, I love the ballet because of my brother, Geoff, for whom taking his daughter Hannah to a performance of the Nutcracker was always the highlight of his Christmas.
Geoff passed away in 2012, and I smiled more than a little when the curtain rose, because I’m sure that my brother was looking over my shoulder with approval; and I know for a fact he would have loved the spirit of the event, and applauded as enthusiastically as anyone there.
For Geoff, any performance of the Nutcracker was always a success, no matter who was dancing or who was playing the music (It was an event he believed could only have been improved if Judy Garland had played the part of Clara and Lucille Ball sashayed in as the Sugar Plum Fairy…)
THE SECRET: And that, my friends, is the secret to enjoying this time of the year. We enjoy Advent, and Christmas, because of what it stands for more than the merits – or otherwise – of the events we participate in at any given moment. Christmas doesn’t stand or fall based on how well the choir sings O Little Town of Bethlehem, or how convincing Mary and Joseph act at the Christmas pageant, or how masterfully the preacher retells the story at church on the Third Sunday of Advent.
No, Christmas stands on the amazing love of God, made personal for each one of us through the gift of Jesus, Immanuel (God With Us), Prince of Peace, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father.
If we know the story, if we know it by heart – in our hearts – then it’s just amazing; there’s no other way to describe it. Any presentation of the narrative is always a success.
Christmas is a story that’s better experienced than watched. That’s the invitation! Step out of your story and into a better story, the story of the child who wants to take you home to meet his Father. There’s nothing quite like it!
Peace, promise, hope, and joy – DEREK
(no image gallery today – look tomorrow for days 1-16)