All I Want for Christmas, the Deep State, and Visions Which Are Both Too Narrow and Too Broad

All I Want for Christmas, the Deep State, and Visions Both Too Narrow and Broad The Garrett Ashley Mullet Show

It cannot come as news to you that Mariah Carey’s 1994 hit, All I Want for Christmas Is You, is extremely popular this time of year. Commercials, movies, the radio, and department store speakers – all take turns playing the ditty again and again, until such a time as we each look forward to the passing of the season and the start of a new year.

But now we come to it, and you will tell me, in short order, that I am overthinking things. What is more, you will call me a curmudgeon. Believe my assurances, however, that neither conclusion is the goal in mind, with what is about to be remarked on, about this nearly 30 year old song, which we have all heard countless times, but perhaps never thought rightly about.

It’s just that this song is really rather sad, actually. When we think about it, we must admit that. What must be the broader context, that the only thing Carey would ask for in a Christmas present would be time and attention from the one she loves?

The implication is that this is neither what is had the rest of the year, nor even what is expected for sure at this time of the year, without asking for it at Christmas-time.

After a fashion, Carey’s seems a plea to be loved, from someone who is insecure that they won’t be, unless they specifically and outright ask to be, even if their asking is as publicly as in a hit song, that will play, far and wide, every year, for approaching three decades now.

Who is it written to? Her father? Her significant other? Either way, their time and attention is clearly invested elsewhere. They must be busy, focused on pursuing, obtaining, and enjoying what is most important to them. But she wants that to change. She wants them to choose to change that. She is asking them to so choose because that is all she wants.

Yet the inverse statement which is communicated, or at least understood to be communicated by the singer, is that whoever sings All I Want For Christmas Is You is not so important to the one they are singing to as they should like to be, or even by rights need to be. They are not just investing their time and attention elsewhere; they are also not investing their time and attention here, with her, as they ought to be.

In that case, this is a song which speaks not just to affection or desire in a general sense. No, this is about unrequited love.

Like Mariah Carey’s first husband, who dresses up as Santa Claus for the 1994 home movie style music video, driving away across the snowy plain in his sleigh after giving her a wrapped box of who either knows or cares what, the loved one being spoken to in these lyrics gives material gifts. That they do. Yet these presents are received as much or more to stand in for affection and commitment.

We don’t want those gifts once a year. If a choice can be made, we want to have a loving and healthy relationship with them the rest of the year. We want family, and to find both purpose and belonging in that context. And it is good to want that!

And wouldn’t you know it? This way of hearing the song actually makes a lot of sense! Though, I admit, this way of looking at things turns this song from fun and cheerful to a kind of coquettish desperation, and a tragedy of modern proportions, I don’t say this to mock Mariah Carey, or those who love her song here. Rather, I say this to mourn for us all.

What are we doing, when we boil Christmas down to nothing more than the purchasing, wrapping, giving, and receiving of material gifts? We are not only forgetting the great gift of the Messiah, who was born to a virgin, and wrapped in swaddling cloths before being laid in a Bethlehem manger. Yes, we are doing that. But that is not what I am driving at. Or at least that is not all I am driving at.

There is also a very human cost in neglecting to love and value one another as we ought. And that is the other side of this coin. That is the effect to the cause here.

At first blush, it would appear the vision is too broad. When any gift, surprising and valued for its expense or thoughtfulness, can serve as a substitute for devotion, we might suppose we have so much variety, and so many options to choose from.

Considering the vision more carefully, however, and at greater length, I think it is rather too narrow. And this is because, in actual fact, the giving of these gifts instead of time, attention, and affection, speaks to a very selfish kind of love. That is, this vision is as narrow as the nose on our face.

If we give gifts primarily because they will maximize our own joy, rather than pleasing God or blessing the other person holistically, we are giving to ourselves. And that is an open secret which should cause us sadness rather than joy, and bring us to a place of repentance and the asking of forgiveness rather than pride and celebration.

But then that is also to say as well that the original album from which this song is taken surprised me for its fuller line-up. Why did this song above all those others become the talk of the town?

Mariah Carey has a beautiful voice, and she is a beautiful woman generally. But she sang classics like ‘Silent Night,’ ‘O Holy Night,’ and ‘Joy to the World’ as well in her first Christmas album. The concluding track is even ‘Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child!’ Yet the one track that we all know her for in this time of the year, and even more broadly the rest of the year, is not any of those. Instead, it is ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You.’

Spotify tells me All I Want for Christmas has been played over 1.3 billion times on their platform alone. That is quite a lot. In fact, that is more than I personally have seen any other song played on Spotify.

But here also, let me be clear, Mariah Carey is not the one to blame. If the weary world rejoices at the particular song by her which it does, remember that we together chose which of her Yule-time ballads would be the most popular and oft-played. And the lucrative metrics of the song, being an extension of how often it is bought and played, speak to that. She didn’t force us to choose what we chose. We elected this.

And what I conclude from this fact is that a lot of us relate to the sentiment on a deep and, perhaps, unconscious level to what was conveyed by Carey back in 1994, in this song by her above all the rest.

Yet here again, our vision is perhaps rather too narrow than too broad. All I Want For Christmas talks of Christmas, yes. And, of course, there is mention here and there about Santa Claus and reindeer, and about presents and stockings, and about trees and fireplaces. But what about Christ? Where is he to be found in all of this?

Yes, I know. That is a question sure to invite mutterings about a stick-in-the-mud in your midst. But hear me out.

If Christ is not in the picture here, but this song, above all others, is what earns Mariah Carey the title, which many have bestowed on her, “Queen of Christmas,” despite her entirely appropriate objections stated on Stephen Colbert’s show, that Mary more rightly deserves to be called such a queen, and Carey just loves Christmas, then I think this goes a long way to explaining why also the love from one to another is more begged for than freely given from us to one another, in real life as in this art.

In sum, the whole business calls to my mind what John, the disciple who Christ loved, writes in the first of his New Testament epistles: “We love because he first loved us.” When we forget God’s love for us in Christ, at Christmas, or at any other point of the year, we correspondingly lose the capacity to love one another truly and well the way we were designed to.

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