Water Under Snow Is Weary
Susan and I went Christmas shopping one time at a mall in Knoxville. Everyone with a pulse was out doing last minute Christmas shopping. We fought and clawed our way through the mall like good little consumers, keeping our eyes always open for the perfect Christmas gift (read “sale item”).
At any rate, it only takes me about a total of four minutes of Christmas shopping to get tired of Christmas, to get tired of the tension of the holidays, to get tired of life—to get tired. As we were standing around, devising our next strategic move, we saw some children all dressed up in front of the Proffitts department store. The young boys were wearing black suits with red bow ties, and the girls were wearing light gray dresses that made them all look like young Dutch maidens. Obviously, we figured, they were a part of some group brought to the mall to entertain the hordes of admiring adults (perhaps with the underlying genius being that the cuter the children were, the more the dumbfounded adults would be inclined to buy). We soon found out that they were the boys and girls choir from a conservatory.
Susan and I, wanting an excuse to step out of the rat-race for a moment, and intrigued by this young group of vocalists, decided to stick around to hear their program. They began with a sort of classical version of the Proffitts’ theme song, “For the style of your life . . .”—which occurred to me at the time as a sort of unashamed commercialization of young talent, but what do I know? My favorite Christmas character is the Grinch. Their next song was, however, Vivaldi’s Gloria, which was beautifully performed. Susan and I looked at one another and mouthed, “Can you believe this?” Needless to say, we were thoroughly impressed.
But it was the third song that struck me, whether as incongruous, or as ironic, or simply as a commentary on our increasingly cynical society. The title indicates the melancholy nature of the song: Water under Snow Is Weary. The song was complex and haunting, but lovely nonetheless. And yet to hear a six year-old sing about how the exigencies of life can wear one down seemed to me infinitely depressing. Apparently, the song had some sort of meaning for the children because three of them yawned wearily throughout its performance.
The truth of the song rang through, however, because water under snow is weary; which is to say that for all the decorations we put up during the holidays, for all the pronouncements about peace on earth at this time of the year, for all the flash and dazzle of our Christmas celebration, the reality of pain, loneliness, and bone weariness lies beneath the surface of our lives like bows and tinsel on dead trees. Life is often maddening and always tiring—even six year-olds know that truth. And yet, it is at this time of the year (perhaps like no other) that the church has an opportunity to speak a word of hope to people who have put wrapping paper and garland over their fears and frailties. Indeed, we also have been given a message through a small child about the exigencies of life. The difference being that the message we bear to the world doesn’t have cynicism and weariness as its last word. Rather, the last word of the message we bear to the world is hope. Water under snow may be weary, but the hope we bear to the world is that what lies beneath the heart of the Christ child is grace and peace.