Sometimes I think I live in a cave. James Taylor has a new Christmas album, and I had no idea, until the other day when my buddy John told me. Tickets for his solo (only James, no band) concert in LA in February are sold out, and now going for up to $400 per seat. Guess we won't be going, although I would love to.
Anyway, I am online just now listening to "In The Bleak Midwinter" from James' new album, and my eyes are tearing up. Here is why. James is a fellow who has had a somewhat wandering, wondering spiritual journey his whole life. He has written songs touching on semi-new age and Earth worship, of sorts. And now, I hear him singing from this tune, one of my Christmas favorites:
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, empty as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my
part; Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
And listening to this fellow, who's music I grew up with, I am a sniffling mess. I feel like I know James, we have spent so many hours together in the car, in my bedroom at my parents as a teen, in my dorm room at college, in my first house, at many of his local concerts, and more recently, in the family van with the little girls who are now not so little any more. More than 25 years in all. In this new album, James seems very comfortable with Jesus and the songs about him.
Here is what I think. I think we have to deconstruct the way we do church. My guess is that James is not so much disinterested with Jesus, its the church people that claim to speak for Jesus that he has a hard time with. I think James and Jesus might do very well together, as friends. And perhaps, after spending time with him, James might want to "give his heart", if you will. James is not so unique. Our cities and towns are filled with people just like him. Everywhere. Subtly searching, but unwilling to deal with the structures of the church.
We in the church, for our part, need to create a more welcoming, warm, real, relevant, and loving place. Maybe then, the James' of the world would come visit, and over time, become a part, and maybe even....give their hearts.
May it be so.