Advent Devotional: Two’fer Tuesday, Hippos and Mirth and Ringing Earth
So I’m pairing two songs together today because I managed to make my schedule of songs while missing a couple of suggestions accidently so I’m fitting them in here and there. Today I’ve selected two songs that on some level are completely different:
I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas
On This Day Earth Shall Ring
And while one is clearly a playful Christmas song, the other is a Latin song whose origins go as far back as the 14th century. But it too was a playful song in its day. It evolved into a song sung when the “boy bishop” would take over worship leadership in parody of the real bishop on the Feast of Holy Innocents. The song is meant to be fun and emphasize the joy of Christmas.
Last week we talked about the need for some somber space – the need to acknowledge hurt and hurting and make space for those among us who struggle to claim hope. We are also reminded by these songs not to slide too far in only one direction. Advent can and should be somber, but it is also a time of joy and mirth and celebration that hope and good news is real. And there is way of engaging in laughter and fun that doesn’t gloss over pain but also doesn’t forbid us joy while hurt abounds. It is healthy to be able to laugh in the midst of waiting.
I’m reminded of a great quotation used by Eugene Peterson in his wonderful first book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. “I have read that during the process of canonization the Catholic Church demands proof of joy in the candidate, and although I have not been able to track down chapter and verse I like the suggestion that dourness is not a sacred attribute.” (Phyllis McGinley)
Advent really is a time of in-betweenness. Of the already and the not-yet, of waiting but also of preparing, of remembering birth and looking toward a second-coming, of the messiness of our day-to-day and the hope and fulfillment of Kingdom promises.
So we acknowledge pain and we laugh. We hope for the absurd (like Hippos) and pray for peace and an end to hunger and homelessness. We embrace the wonder-filled ALL of life.
“His the doom, ours the mirth;
when he came down to earth,
Bethlehem saw his birth;
ox and ass beside him
from the cold would hide him.”
“I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles or rhinoceroses
I only like hippopotamuses
And hippopotamuses like me too!”