John Lennon is dead (and other merry Christmas thoughts)

John Lennon was murdered thirty years ago. I was five, so I don’t remember him being killed (or him being alive). To be honest, I wouldn’t have realized this was the thirtieth anniversary of his death if not for ESPN. No, I’m not that much of a sports dummy. I’ve just been disconnected from the wired world for the majority of the day and SportsCenter is muted on the teevee at the moment.

I’m also not that much of a cultured Beatles connoisseur. I know people younger than me who are, and that’s swell. I suppose I just didn’t have the right exposure.

I remember my mom telling the story of skipping church on Sunday night to watch their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

I remember Josh Best sitting behind me in middle school singing “Get Back” over and over (and over).

I remember being aware of the Beatles as a pop culture fixture as a kid, but somehow I ended up being into the Monkees instead. Yeah, I know.

I own the 1’s album, but I recently deleted over half of it from my iphone because I realized it wasn’t there for me to actually listen to, but because it seemed like I should at least have one Beatles album on my iphone. Sorry, Josh.

The Beatles just never took for me. My non-meathead bona fides lie somewhere other than a deep appreciation for the Fab Five.

So I didn’t realize Lennon died thirty years ago. Fascinating reading, this description of my ignorance, yes? That’s sort of the point. As Lennon was eulogized on the silent screen in front of me, it occurred to me that my ignorance and (confession) indifference are irrelevant (alliteration not intentional). What I mean is the tragedy of John’s death was not lessened because in 1980 I was blissfully oblivious, likely wearing my crazy chicken t-shirt and sitting awkwardly next to the AC intake vent (which was my spot at that point in life) browsing through Where the Wild Things Are. (Mom, this is how I generally recall this portion of my life. Please don’t muck with my emotional stability by dismantling any of it.)

And the significance of Lennon’s death thirty years later is not diminished because I spent the day unawares. Or because I am more interested in the ESPN piece about how Cosell and company handled announcing his death than I am in any stories about Lennon himself.

The life and death of John Lennon mean what they mean no matter what significance I assign to them in my little world. He was a part of crafting and delivering songs the world will sing for a sizable portion of human history. That’s a big deal, whether or not they ever return to my iphone. John Lennon is John Lennon, and I’m glad I don’t have the power to alter that.

What does that have to do with Christmas?

I shared with my people on Sunday that one of the real revolutions in my life in recent years has been new eyes to see Christmas  in context of the Big Story. The exposition of that revelation deserves its own post another time (maybe I’ll use next year’s post on that one), but the essence of it is this: that scene in Bethlehem wasn’t an event that made irrelevant all past and future events. It was the event that made sense of all past and future events.

I knew that. But I didn’t know that.

As I’ve discovered this for the first time all over again for the first time, it has irreversibly altered my…well, everything. Again, it merits more words than I can spend on it now. My point for now is that as this fresh understanding has unfolded for me, it’s as if I’m discovering something completely new. I know I’m not the first to figure it out, but sometimes I stumble across something that reminds me that I’m not the first to figure it out. And, oddly, I’m almost surprised. And then I’m relieved.


Because the Story is bigger than me. The birth of that baby answered the cries for freedom that cost centuries of captives their precious last breaths. The birth of that baby satisfied the orphaned groanings of everything created for two thousand years (and counting) after.

A baby did that. Freed slaves. Adopted orphans. Abolished war. Killed death. Redeemed everything ever made. Past. Present. Future.

I’ve known that as long as I’ve known whatever I remember knowing. And now I know it in a new way. And I’m thrilled by the sense that my knowing it is new. And I’m thrilled by my realization that my knowing it is not at all new.

The life and death of Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, mean what they mean no matter what significance I assign to them in my little world. He wrote the song that is human history. That’s a big deal, whether or not I get it like I think I get it…whether or not any of us get it.

Jesus is Jesus, and I’m glad I don’t have the power to alter that.

P.S. I know there were only four. Or were there…?