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MARY ANN CRUM


Christmas is over, but I seem to have one particular carol stuck in my head. It’s a fine song and all, but it’s mid-January, for crying out loud.

Let me say I certainly don’t assume God is trying to “talk” to me through every little thing I hear or think. No way would I try to make Him responsible for most of what goes on in my brain. But I’ve also learned that when something repeatedly comes to mind, I should at least pray about it.

So just in case there was a timely lesson or encouragement or admonition for me in the lyrics of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I sat down and prayerfully read through them.

More about that in a moment, but first let me explain that I was severely overexposed to this song during the month of December through two somewhat obnoxious musical Christmas items in the Crum house.

The first, dubbed the “Christmas anxiety machine,” is a ceramic circus-parade thingie I inherited from my parents. Little fingers can flip a simple switch on this gizmo to crank up all manner of chaos — lights, dancing carousel horses and organ/calliope music that blasts out a medley of Christmas tunes.

With six young grandkids around our house during the holidays, there was a LOT of crazy switch-flipping and calliope music happening. Kids love it, mostly because they relish the collective groans they get from the adults in the room every time it’s turned on.

The blessed relief we experienced when someone finally got up and turned off that thing was not unlike the relief one must feel if one has been pounding one’s head with a hammer and then suddenly stops.

One of the tunes the calliope plays is “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” which is also the song that blares out of the other most obnoxious and kid-favorite Christmas item in our house: a children’s book with battery-powered twinkling lights on every page that loudly plays the song again and again for however long the book is open.

We could conveniently “lose” both of these noisy items, but we’re grandparents and this is “The Land of Yes,” so I imagine they’ll remain part of our Christmas décor until they’re passed down, wanted or not, to our sons.

So yes, while there is a rational reason why “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is stuck in my head, even in January, I nevertheless felt compelled to ask God if there might be another reason why I couldn’t seem to turn loose of this tune.

And there it was, in the powerful relevance and resonance of one phrase: “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

I was arrested by those words because I realized how often I find myself swinging somewhat wildly between hope and fear right now.

As a believer in Jesus, my eternal hope is sure and thinking about heaven excites me like nothing else. But in the meantime, obeying God’s directive to “fear not” in this crazy world isn’t easy.

There’s only one thing that keeps me from getting overwhelmed by fear: my faith in Jesus — in who He is, what He promises, and how He loves me. And that’s the same thing, the only thing, that keeps real hope burning in my heart, come what may.

When I trust God with my life, my future, and the people I love, I hope. When my focus shifts to all the things that could hurt me or those I love, I fear.

So thank you, crazy loud Christmas calliope and twinkling, raucous kid’s book, for the not-so-gentle reminder: I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, the giver of hope and crusher of fear.

Mary Ann Crum (maryanncrum.com) lives in Abbeville and is the author of two books, “A Giggle Goes a Long Way” and “Live.Learn.Laugh!” She can be reached at maryanncrum@gmail.com.