I grew up in a household where Andy Williams and Christmas music were synonymous. I always knew when the holidays were around the corner: I’d start hearing “White Christmas” emanating from our huge walnut-encased stereo system. It took up half the living room and must have weighed 150 pounds. The inviting glow of the amplifier tubes made the back of the console much more alluring to my young technical mind.
Oh sure we played holiday albums from non-Williams artists like the Ray Conniff Singers and Mitch Miller (who could resist “Singing Along with Mitch” and his tear-out lyrics? I miss those as well as reading the liner notes). Both albums were in heavy rotation. But the treasured music of Christmas was from the uber-smooth-and-relaxed tenor voice of Andy Williams. (I’m quite sure the grooves on that album eventually wore out.) Andy had a Karen Carpenter-like voice . . . smoother than a half-melted cube of butter.
As much as I’ve come to appreciate his music through the years, little did I know that Andy’s prolific skills extended to songwriting. And he happens to have written what I would consider the “wrongest” Christmas song. Ever.
I’m sure you know it: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
The song jumps right into hyper-seasonal positivity:
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
As much as I love AW, he’s wrong. For many—maybe most—Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year. The fact is, it’s often filled with painful reminders of the loss of a loved one. Maybe the end of a marriage. Or the glaring reality of isolation and loneliness. Solitary thoughts haunted by a litany of “woulda,” “coulda” and “shoulda” memories come flooding into an unwelcoming mind.
Yes, this time of year can easily shift from “the best” into “the worst” time of the year.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: There’s a direct correlation between gratitude and happiness.
For the record, I’m profoundly blessed. In every way. I have no complaints. Until, that is, I start comparing my situation to someone else who has a bigger, faster, more impressive fill-in-the-blank. Yes, the grass is always greener in someone else’s yard.
Comparisons are the insidious enemy of contentment. Comparisons are good if you’re getting eyes examined or buying avocados or tomatoes. If you’re shopping for clothes, it’s hard not to juxtapose two outfits. But generally speaking, comparisons result in a very large and hard pill to swallow. The comparison game is deadly and the comparator is the one it kills. Comparisons lead us to an insipid presumption that other people are happier than we are.
In contrast, contentment is the antidote to living a dissatisfied life. Happiness and contentment come from focusing on what I have, not on what others have and I don’t.
Dennis Prager says, “Yes, there is a ‘secret to happiness’—and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy.”
Scripture affirms that contentment is our goal, and not comparison: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). The Bible says to “Be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5).
This time of year, most holiday music helps in the process of contentment because it focuses on THE Other: the Christ child. Celebrating the real meaning of Christmas focus on the coming of our Messiah. Songs like
- O Holy Night
- Away in a Manger
- Angels We Have Heard on High
And a host of others. All of the best songs, to borrow the phrase Charles Morris often underscores on Haven Today, are “all about Jesus”! I’ll pass on songs about Rudolf, Frosty and mommy kissing Santa Claus. But songs about the coming of our Savior lift my spirits.
On Haven Today, you’ll hear these Christ-centered songs at this time of the year. The music comes from traditional hymns and modern popular songs about the Lord’s birth. (I hope you have a chance to listen.)
Bottom line . . . Happiness is a rather simple formula. Center your thoughts on the Lord. Focus on God’s gifts to you. Avoid the comparison game. Listen to music that centers on Jesus. And in time, you’ll discover Christmas CAN BE the most wonderful time of the year!