The Admission’s Free

concert-ticket

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. ~ Luke 2:7

Welcome to my Christmas song
I’d like to thank you for the year
So I’m sending you this Christmas card
To say it’s nice to have you here
I’d like to sing about all the things
Your eyes and mind can see
So hop aboard the turntable
Oh step into Christmas with me

Yup, that’s right and we’ve all heard this story a million times. There was no friendly greeter hanging outside the inn on that December night, nobody with a welcoming wave. Just a door slammed tight and nowhere to turn for Mary, Joseph and their new baby boy.

As my pastor, the Reverend Bryant Wright often says; Jesus was welcomed to this earth with a “No Entry” sign and laid to rest in a tomb with a “No Exit” sign. How’s that for a bit of Christmas cheer?

Step into Christmas
Let’s join together
We can watch the snow fall forever and ever
Eat, drink and be merry
Come along with me
Step into Christmas
The admission’s free

There was no offer of food or drink on this first Christmas Day and certainly no free rooms. And though some translations of the verses describing the scene in Bethlehem seemed quite comfy; the soft swaddling clothes and the quaint little manger, the truth was far harsher. More likely, it was a dirty feeding trough and a smelly shed with a dirt floor and holes in the walls big enough for a cat to jump through.

Take care in all you do next year
And keep smiling through the days
If we can help to entertain you
Oh we will find the ways
So merry Christmas one and all
There’s no place I’d rather be
Than asking you if you’d oblige
Stepping into Christmas with me

But the good news is that the gift-giving began soon afterwards and rolls merrily on every year since. The wise men who came following the star were smart enough to come bearing earthly gifts fitting for a King. Little did they know that the real gift was coming to them from the heavenly realm. And this gift was freely given not only to those wise men, but to all mankind smart enough to seek Him.

Step into Christmas
Let’s join together
We can watch the snow fall forever and ever
Eat, drink and be merry
Come along with me
Step into Christmas
The admission’s free
Oh oh oh
La la la la

Elton John, while surely not a highly religious man (check out my earlier post  A Pauper To A Pawn) has demonstrated a strong reverence for God and Jesus nonetheless. Many of his early songs have significant spiritual references – though in fairness we must recognize the lyrical genius of Bernie Taupin in this regard – and at the end of his most successful year to date as a recording artist, he decided to produce a musical Christmas card for his fans.

Welcome to my Christmas song
I’d like to thank you for the year
So I’m sending you this Christmas card
To say it’s nice to have you here
I’d like to sing about all the things
Your eyes and mind can see
So hop aboard the turntable
Oh step into Christmas with me

“Step Into Christmas” was released in late November of 1973, on the heels of his albums, Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player (“Crocodile Rock”, “Daniel” and “Teacher, I Need You”) in January and then the landmark Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in October. And like the proverbial “cherry on top”, it quickly rose to #1 on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart.

Step into Christmas
Let’s join together
We can watch the snow fall forever and ever
Eat, drink and be merry
Come along with me
Step into Christmas
The admission’s free

A few interesting notes about “Step Into Christmas”:

  • It was written and recorded in just a few short hours on a Sunday morning in London’s Trident Studios.
  • The song appeared as a standalone single, on the Elton John’s Christmas Party lp and as a bonus track on the 1995 re-issue of Caribou and two different vocal versions of the song exist.
  • Elton and Bernie were big fans of legendary producer Phil Spector’ girl groups of the early 60’s and his famed “Wall Of Sound” recording technique. “Step Into Christmas” was intentionally produced by Gus Dudgeon – at Elton and Bernie’s request – to imitate that sound. Castanets included!

I’ve always loved the slow and stirring Christmas songs like the Eagles “Please Come Home For Christmas” and Bing’s “White Christmas”, but, like Elton and Bernie, I’m a big fan of the “girl group” Christmas stuff too.

So, take a minute out of the busy days leading up to the big day and step  into this uplifting Christmas card message from Elton, Dee, Davey and Nigel to help get you into the true Christmas spirit!

Sources for this post include:

 

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A Pauper To A Pawn

pawn

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. – Philippians 4:12

If there was ever a song and artist that was tailor made for these posts, it has to be the one and only, Sir Elton John and “Levon”.

So many of Elton’s songs have Biblical or religious references even as Elton has openly decried organized religion as “hateful”, declared that Jesus was just a “compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems” and stated that he would “ban religion completely”.

Why then do so many of Elton’s songs have these religious overtones? Is it Bernie Taupin’s fault? Was he simply trying to be ironic? Or is it just a glimpse into Elton’s own conflicted soul?

Levon wears his war wound like a crown
He calls his child Jesus
‘Cause he likes the name
And he sends him to the finest school in town

Some say that Levon was chosen as the father’s name because it is NOVEL spelled backwards and that Elton believed the Bible to be simply another “good book”.

Levon likes his money
He makes a lot they say
Spend his days counting
In a garage by the motorway

One could even say that Levon (and Elton) were preoccupied with storing up treasures here on earth…as so many of us are.  At this point in his career in 1972, “Madman Across The Water” was peaking on the American charts and certainly with this third album release, Elton was beginning to see considerable commercial success.

He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times said God is dead and the war’s begun
Alvin Tostig has a son today

And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan

Ah yes, Levon shall be a good man. Unlike his father. Just as Elton wanted to rebel against his own father’s Royal Air Force regimentation. Elton’s dad wanted him to go into banking. Imagine that!

Levon sells cartoon balloons in town
His family business thrives
Jesus blows up balloons all day
Sits on the porch swing watching them fly

It’s funny though, it’s been said that when Bernie Taupin was asked about the deeper meaning to “Levon”, he claimed to have had no idea at all when writing it. He said it was “just lines that came out that were interesting”.

And doesn’t this all speak to the ironies and inconsistencies in our own lives. I love Elton’s work immensely, though I disagree with many of the things he says and does. And the very religious beliefs I hold dear, clearly spell out a dim view of the gay lifestyle.

Elton disparages religion yet many of his songs are clearly influenced by religious beliefs and teachings. Could it be just another internal conflict? Elton’s life and sexuality certainly seem to be riddled with conflicts. In the 1960’s he was engaged to his record company secretary, Linda Woodrow. In 1976, he declared himself bisexual. In 1984, he married German recording engineer Renate Blauel and finally would up in civil union with his current partner, David Furnish.

Elton and David became the proud parents to a son (by surrogate) on Christmas day in 2010. And you guessed it…they named him Levon. (Actually his full name is Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John).

And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus
Leaving Levon far behind
Take a balloon and go sailing
While Levon, Levon slowly dies  

No matter what Elton thinks about God, he has certainly been blessed with a talent beyond compare. His five decade long recording career has seen him sell over 300 million records, making him one of the best selling recording artists of all time. Such great abundance and yet suffering need are all tied up together in his life.

Ultimately, I think Elton is perfect proof of God’s perfect love. And Jesus may have died, but he died for all our sins and all mankind, including Elton. Even if he is a non-believer.

Well, it’s no big deal…Jesus is no stranger to a little “religious rejection”.

Watch the classic here: