Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
My Least Favorite Christmas SongThere are a few Christmas songs that have been recorded by so many people, that by the time the Christmas season is over, I am definitely ready to not hear them again for another 11 months. Songs like "The Christmas song," "Let it snow," and "Jingle bells." It's not that I greatly dislike them as they are; it's just the repetition that gets to me.
But there's another song that seems to make me cringe even before it gets to more than one repetition. That song is "The Christmas shoes," by Newsong. It's not that it's poorly sung or played, or that it doesn't stick in my head at times.
For the uninitiated, this song is about a man who is buying presents at a store, when a young boy comes in to buy some shoes for his mother who is tragically on her death bed. When he goes to pay, the boy, who is either too young to understand math, or too overcome by grief to properly count his money, or both, finds that he does not have enough money to buy the shoes. The chorus goes on about how he wants to buy the shoes for his mother so that she'll look beautiful if she meets Jesus that night. But fortunately, the singer of this story is a true hero who ponies up some money to help the kid out. We have no idea what happens after that, but it doesn't matter, because our hero has learned a valuable lesson.
Why on earth could I despise this song so much? How could such a touching, sappy song about a young boy and a dying mother cause me to change the radio station when it comes on? Am I a Scrooge??
No, I am not. Here's why.
There's no doubt that Christmas and the Advent season bring out many emotions for people. At its core, Christmas is a beautiful celebration of hopes fulfilled and longings satiated, and this is something that should bring joy and peace to our hearts, even in the midst of difficulties and trials that don't always stop for the holidays.
Ultimately, for those who celebrate the birth of Christ, the greatest and most wonderful part of this story, is that it's TRUE. Not that it's emotional or happy or touching - those are side benefits of the greater story.
At first I thought that the reason "The Christmas shoes" rubbed me the wrong way is because it wasn't true. It never happened. It's a sappy story that someone just made up in order to emotionally manipulate the listener into some kind of tearful/piteous response. With a story as beautiful and true as the real Christmas story, why do we need this made up Hallmark song?
Of course, then I realized that there are plenty of other stories we watch/read/listen to this time of year that aren't true. Rudolph isn't true. A Christmas Carol isn't true. Even one of my favorite Christmas movies, It's a Wonderful Life, which also tugs at the heartstrings, isn't true. But the thing about all those stories is that it's obvious that they are fictional. There are flying reindeer and dancing elves, ghosts of Christmas past, angels trying to earn their wings, etc. etc. Of these stories, the ones that really make an impact, stick with us because they teach us something meaningful. They are fables, using clearly fictional elements in order to teach a real-life truth.
But in "The Christmas shoes," there is nothing obviously false about it. Everything in it could feasibly happen in this universe, which I think, oddly enough, makes it less believable to me. It has too much truth for a fable, and not enough fantasy to be distinguished as a teaching story of any kind. I certainly don't feel like I learn anything from it, other than that its writers decided they really wanted to go all out in order to create a pitiable, contrived scenario in which someone receives some grand emotional epiphany without any clear lesson for the rest of us.
Even if we overlook the immature theology this young boy in the song holds to, I find it a little disconcerting that we're supposed to be touched by a child deciding that buying his mother shoes is more important than being with her in her last moments. Or that she requires a frivolous accessory in order to "look beautiful."
"But," you may say, "he's just a kid! It's so sweet that he wants her to look beautiful for Jesus!"
Except no, because this is NOT a real story or a real child. If it was, I wouldn't be writing this. Even more, there are real stories about real people dealing with tragedies during Christmas time, and those real stories deserve to be told, regardless of whether they would fit neatly in a cutesy little song. Instead, "The Christmas shoes" is something that was invented and carefully crafted because the adult authors thought it would get an emotional rise out of us, especially if they could tie it to Christmas somehow.
The fact is, we don't need fake, contrived, tear-jerking blurbs like this. We have the greatest story ever told, and if anything moves you to tears this Christmas, let it be THAT.
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