Christmas This Year

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It’s late. Way past bedtime. My parents, along with the rest of my family, are fast asleep. Where am I? Sitting cozily by the Christmas tree typing, head full of thoughts. Kris Allen is singing away from the Spotify tab open on my desktop. I’m enjoying his new album “Thank You Camellia”. Very romantic. Very pop.

I spent this past weekend in my favorite city I’ve ever visited: Nashville, Tennessee.  As soon as I strode off the plane into Nashville, I was greeted by a cheery bilingual sign announcing “Welcome to Nashville”. I felt like I was home. There’s something about Nashville that I can’t really place; all I can say is that my soul feels satisfied every time I enter the city limits. It’s a town of hipster musicians. It’s an art town, where people dress so cool you look twice at passerby. It’s a town of old-fashioned charm and Civil War memories. It’s a town of 20-somethings trying to make a name for themselves. Soon I’ll join the ranks of aspiring music business professionals battling their way into the good-graces of established executives. For now, I just get to enjoy the city for what it is and not what it will bring me.

That’s just what my Mom and I did this weekend when we visited. Our main objective for visiting was going to the Hits Deep Tour, a tour featuring some of Christian music’s biggest acts. Tobymac acted as the hit-making ringleader, hosting musicians Group 1 Crew, Britt Nicole, Jamie Grace, Brandon Heath, Mandisa,  and Chris August. Technically, it was supposed to be a tour of “hit-makers”, hence the title “Hits Deep”, so each artist sung their hits and exited the stage. Of course, this created a top-heavy show for headliner Tobymac, who played over 10 songs, each extremely popular. Mom and I were sitting a ways from the stage, directly across it but on the upper level of the fantastic Bridgestone Arena. It was a packed house, which was awesome to experience. Toby mentioned that it was the largest of the entire tour. It’s not very often that I go to concerts with thousands upon thousands of other Christians.  I’m much more used to small venues like Cincinnati’s Underground, places that only host a couple hundred fans per show. It was incredible to look around during one of Toby’s more upbeat numbers and see the entire crowd dancing under the rotating lights. The show, as a whole, was honestly fantastic. I was so impressed by the vocal abilities of the ladies on tour. Blanca Reyes of Group 1 Crew had my mom and I gaping in amazement as she hit note after ridiculous note in both her set with Manny and her feature in Tobymac’s song Unstoppable. Mandisa was as incredible live as ever, American Idol definitely didn’t exaggerate her talent. She blew it out of the water. Natural. Smooth as butter. Britt Nicole had such a good night vocally! She debuted “Gold”, her next radio hit, and the crowd went CRAZY. The energy in that place was just impossible to describe. It was one of heavenly hope, one of fervent passion and excitement about the generation God was rising up. One of my favorite moments of the night was when Tobymac discussed all the artists features he had on his new album Eye On It. He said he had all of the musicians featured on the album on tour with him…except one.

This is where I went crazy.

Because my favorite musician of all time is the one he was talking about. I literally screamed.

“LECRAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Of course, it was Lecrae.  Toby goes, “I’ve been looking up to this guy for a while”. And proceeds to sing his song “Forgiveness”. I really wished Lecrae would have come out and rapped his verse, but the video of him rapping it was enough to make my night. If you’ve never heard me gush about ‘crae before, get used to it. He is a culture changer, an innovator, and I am so excited about what he’s doing in and through hip-hop to share Christ.

After the show let out, Mom and I walked all the way from the Bridgestone up to our Marriott at Vanderbilt, which was about 2 miles away. We walked along the exit to the highway. It got pretty intense at times as Mom and I ran across crosswalks just in case some crazy rogue Nashvillian decided they didn’t mind taking us out with their vehicle. Something we noticed when we were down there was how intensely people drove. Forget Taylor Swift’s naive comment about “Everyone in Nashville letting you over in traffic”. I realized that the only reason people in Nashville would ever let you over is if you were Taylor Swift. People drive aggressively, darting in and out of traffic like ambulances in a rush to the hospital. I don’t know how I’ll ever survive driving down there.

I got to catch up with my friend Katie Chrisman while I was in Nashville as well. Katie’s basically a genius and she attends Vanderbilt University. We chatted over cups of Bongo Java coffee, talking about how ridiculously preppy Vanderbilt was and how we’re really more like the Belmont kids at heart. She told me she wants to switch her major from Neuroscience to PublicPolicy, which is absolutely fantastic if you know Katie. She knows politics like no one I’ve ever met, and she’s so passionate about it. I’m excited to see where her dreams take her.

Mom and I went thrifting together after that, which went surprisingly well. The GPS directed us to one “Southern Thrift Store”, located in a somewhat run-down part of town. We found some great finds there! It’s fairly typical to find the best clothes in the worst parts of town. The logic in that fact? Nonexistent.

Nashville was lovely, and leaving felt like being separated from a part of myself.

Mom said, “Goodbye, Nashville”, as we stepped onto our plane home to Columbus. Even that was too much for me to hear.

She amended the statement to “See you soon, Nashville”. I was placated.

Because I know I”ll be back soon. I know after the next two years are over, I’ll be down there interning. And that makes me really excited.

For now I’m home. The last couple of days have brought utter laziness. I mean 12 hours of sleeping per night, pajamas on for a majority of the day, way too much time spent checking Facebook and Twitter instead of doing meaningful things. I’m eagerly anticipating breaking this cycle of laziness but at the same time I enjoy basking in the feeling of having no obligations, no one to answer and no work that needs to be done. It’s partly glorious and partly ludicrous.

Elijah turns 3 on the 21st. Wow. It’s hard to believe he’s so old already.

Then there’s Christmas, sneaking up on me like it does every year.

Then I turn 19. Ah. I don’t want to think about growing older. It makes me too sad.

Last night I opened my bible to 1 Thessalonians. In chapter 5, verse 5 I read,

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness”.

What a beautiful reminder that we have the same powerful light within us as Christ did when he entered the dark, fallen world. John 1 describes Christ’s coming to Earth, metaphorically comparing the incarnation to the “light of all men”. I love this image, that of Christ being that sole light, the sole provider of any warmth or hope for vision in a dark world.

Imagine being alone in a dark room – a room so dark that you can’t see your own hand in front of your face.

This situation was mine the other night, fumbling down our pitch black hallway, afraid that I would wake our sleeping family (who actually sleep at descent times). I was walking so slowly, letting my feet feel my next step deliberately and carefully so I didn’t trip over something unseen.

It’s crazy to think that I was even more blind then that before the Light of the World entered my life.

Have you ever stared into the sun, or into a lightbulb that burned really bright?

All sources of blinding light here on Earth are incomparable to the light of that star on the original Christmas night, the star that led poor shepherds miles  from their flocks and brought near foreign magi.

This is the same Light we hold within us.

Emmanuel.

in Christ,

angela

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