Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sufjan Stevens: Come Thou Fount

Well, it's December, folks. Christmastime is here. And before I dwell too much on the glory of December, let me paint you a few pictures of the holiday season here at 50 Downing Street.

Scene 1: Annie, Katie, and I were gathered in my bedroom in the late evening sometime last week. Annie and Katie were laying on my bed, drawing magpies and swallows and other birds of doom, while I was at my sewing machine, messing around with bits of fabric and paper. The mood was an attempt at optimism, although notably somber.

Our discussion somehow suddenly shifted from bird allegories to that silly yet relevant discussion where one gets to imagine big things, out of the realm of reality that we would wish for had we the chance. What would you wish for if you were granted three wishes? (If you don't remember the rules from grade school, you can't wish for money and you can't wish for more wishes.)

Lots of big, heartbreaking wishes were thrown into our little world framed by my bright blue walls and all-white linens. The wishes hung there in the middle of the room like clouds for us to ponder their possible shapes and meanings. We wished for love, wished for understanding. We wished for clarity and talent. I wished for a washer and dryer.

But my favorite wish of all was Katie's wish for the fronts of houses to be set on hinges. She wished that we could open up all of Brooklyn like a dollhouse, and observe the little worlds inside. We could pick up chandeliers like jewelry and watch first hand discussions on little things like paint colors or movie choices to big things like mortgages and marriage. We could learn so much by what is kept indoors and not shared in outside conversation.

Well, fast-forward to scene 2, same apartment, a week later. I found myself standing on the hardwood floor of our little attic apartment, with the proverbial rug pulled out from under me, thinking of Katie's dollhouse wish. Had 50 Downing street been set on hinges, the world outside could have observed the same three girls, the same somber faces (I promise that this post will become less doomy. Bear with me.) all staring at strong and handsome Irishman hacking at the trunk of a 6-ft Christmas spruce with a kitchen knife and a hammer, completely humbled by his kindness.

I'm not going to even attempt to share with you how we got there, who the Irishman is, and why we remained so gloomy (one highlight: me putting the finishing touches on my lovingly dressed tree only to have it topple over immediately, revealing my complete incompetence in doing things like 'putting a real live Christmas tree in a stand with water.') But what I will share is this: what started out to be a miserable evening turned out pretty okay. Nice, even.

I found myself in the third scene, a few hours later, surrounded by my make-shift Brooklyn family of four (John came up after a bit), eating fish sticks and 1/8 of a frozen personal sized pizza off a card table in the middle of the room (we replaced our normal table with a Christmas tree, ha). Sufjan Steven's Christmas album was playing softly behind our laughter.

I hadn't listened to this particular album in a while, and was shocked and so very pleased to hear 'Come Thou Fount', one of my very favorite hymns (one of everyones favorite hymns?), stuck there between 'Angels We Have Heard on High' and 'I Saw Three Ships.' It isn't even a Christmas song, not in the least, and I'd like to think that Sufjan stuck in there because of the word 'Ebenezer' in the second verse. I always thought of Dickens too.

In that moment, surrounded by friends' stories and the heavy scent of evergreen, Sufjan's version of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing kind of saved my life. Well, it didn't save my life, I really am okay. We're all okay. But it did, at the very least, save my evening. Hello, glorious December. Looking forward to whatever you may bring.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy grace I come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.


Sarah Meyer said...

I remember having to stay after chapel once to ask Pastor Koenig what an ebenezer is! She told me that it is the "rock of help" and is usually used as a foundation stone for an altar or place of worship. Who knew????

Lauren said...

Ohhhh, my sweet friend. I love you. Always, always. Definitely.

tre cat said...

We are on the same Christmas music menu. After talking to you about Amy Grant yesterday, I then switched of Sufjan Stevens Christmas music. We have great taste.

Katie Henly said...

I also wished to be a MaƮtre Fromager.

David Henly said...

Beautiful. You just made my awful day seem somehow wonderful. Katie and Sarah - two of my most favorite people. "Hither by thy grace..."