Duke Ellington Understood Incarnation, Lived Christmas

Duke Ellington Understood Incarnation, Lived Christmas December 24, 2013

There is a collection of Christmas-Themed articles over at National Review, and among them you’ll find my piece which started out as a rant against cruise-pictures-as-Christmas-cards and ended up being about Duke Ellington and the Great Christmas Secret:

“Duke Ellington and I exchanged Christmas greetings each year,” wrote Joe Delaney of the Las Vegas Sun., “Mine were sent in mid-December. Duke sent his when the spirit moved him.”

A reformed Ebenezer Scrooge may have pledged to “honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year,” but for Ellington, no reform was needed. His card list was extensive, and he faithfully wrote out his greetings while traveling, or when there was a little downtime between gigs. Friends said he found nothing strange in dropping some Christmas wishes in the dog days of summer, when chestnuts roasting on an open fire seemed a hellish idea, and a stable suggested only a stench.

The cards we are receiving at our house this year, though timely, have seemed relentlessly self-absorbed and unseasonal; the majority of them are not even cards, but photographs. They are pictures of families — or at least of the children, no matter how old — posing in bathing suits on a beach, or with a parrot on a cruise, and with nary a manger or an angel in sight.

Well, why would there be when, in fact, these messages are not really about Christmas at all. They’re about the selfie-ness of the senders, for whom even the recipient has become an irrelevant detail — an acquaintance confirmed via printed label stuck to the envelope. Not a pen is lifted, nor a name scrawled; not a warm sentiment is betrayed. The message is, in essence, “We had a nice vacation this year and liked this picture so here it is, and oh yeah, Happy Holidays.”

There is something profoundly anti-Incarnational about it all.

You can read the rest here.

Merry Christmas!

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