We humans are creatures of repetition. Come to think of it, this whole Earth is based on repetition, spinning faithfully on her axis, turning our faces to the sun regardless of our righteousness or unrighteousness. She just keeps on spinning, shifting dutifully so seasons come and go. Repetition. We who breathe require rest in regular intervals; we repeatedly nourish and cleanse our bodies; we put one foot in front of the other over and over again just to get where we want to be. We are replete with “repeat”.
Some things we repeat so we can consciously remember them. I listen to the toddlers in my life repeat their ABC’s, and within a very short while they are stringing letters together to make words. My guitar students place their fingers on the fret board of their guitars in certain patterns: “OK now, strum, 2,3,4…off,2,3,4…back to the pattern,2,3,4….Eventually they go to the chord they want without having to look, then eventually their fingers fall into place without even thinking of it as a pattern. Their fingertips are perfectly callused, their tendons and muscles are accustomed to pinching the string against the wooden neck…it all becomes second nature.
Even the term “second nature” alludes to the power of repetition. We shed our first natural state to take on a second one, like a butterfly sheds her cocoon, like a cicada molts and leaves the old flesh behind.
Night before last we all gathered around my milk glass cake plate, atop which was stacked a yummilicious fresh German’s Chocolate Cake. We lit candles and sang our massively harmonic Happy Birthday to You and David leaned over with his grandkids to blow out the candles. We have repeated this scenario for many years, many more than David would like to admit, though I think it wholly worthy of shouting that the world has had him this long. Birthdays are so great, in my thinking, because they allow us to remember someone in very physical and meaningful ways, without feeling like we are being exclusive and without hurting the feelings of other people we love. We are permitted to focus, to celebrate the fact that someone who has changed our lives was born in the same time and space that we lived on this earth.
Some birthdays we celebrate after the person has finished their earthly journey. There are national holidays assigned to give us pause, so that we will remember them and what they represent. This is a good tradition.
I’m not sure of this, because I have not researched it, but I am sort of guessing that the oldest birthday we celebrate as a people is the one we cherish on the 25th of December. Even though this is thought to be a different day than his actual birthday, the fact that we set apart a specific time to celebrate his birth is good enough. It’s not the exact moment that matters as much as the fact that there was a moment at all. And though we have not always celebrated in such a fantastic way as the civilized world has done the past century of so, the fact that there have been more than two thousand years that the earth’s cycle has repeated herself between his birthdays is really worth noting. A thousand years of Christmas days…and then again, a thousand more.
When I was working on the creation of songs for my latest Christmas album, I found the following tidbit:
A medieval hymn, written near the time the Christian calendar was set, says this-
"Though Christ in Bethlehem, a thousand times be born,
Unless he's born in you, your heart is still forlorn."
I was at the time working on another Christmas song, which remains unfinished, because I could not let go of these words. I thought of all the people on this earth who celebrate Christmas with a tree and presents and some form of culinary delights. I thought of how this holiday brings people to a place of sharing and giving, and all that is good. But for those who will go back, there is so much more. Back to the stable, to the manger, to the babe. His coming was so pivotal we changed our calendars to center on that day in that year.
We repeat the story over and over. We repeat to remember.
Today is Thursday. Not just any Thursday.
A thousand times the Child is bornA silent night in a little townWith a thousand angels looking down
A simple stall; a manger bedA brilliant star overheadA thousand tears his mother shedFor One Small Boy
He is come EmmanuelHoly one, Emmanuel
A thousand years of Christmas daysAnd then again a thousand moreAnd still we come and we adoreThis One Small Boy
He is come EmmanuelHoly one Emmanuel
A perfect life; a noble deathNo greater love; no truer friendIn my heart He’s born againOne Small Boy
A thousand times born againOne Small Boy
There is a scripture in the second book of Corinthians that, in a few short words, speaks the volume of a life filled with remembrance.
Maundy Thursday refers to the Thursday before Easter, the occasion of the Last Supper. The word 'Maundy' comes from the Latin word for commandment, mandatum; referring to the new commandment given that we love one another as He loves us.