At Midnight Mass last night, a particular song stood out among the carols and the Marty Haugen and the Daniel Pinkham Christmas cantata. It wasn't a song that I would have expected to stand out. If anything, there was every reason for the song to fall flat, to be a well-meaning embarrassment, given the context of its performance: an urban Catholic parish in New York City, far from its rural origins. But the song's sweetness, humor, playfulness, and visionary weirdness could not be tamed. It took the night to another place, and the performers and assembly went somewhere else for a while. It was impossible not to smile, and suddenly reverence wasn't very far from laughter and play.
Here's Johnny Cash and The Carter Family singing the song in question. Merry Christmas to all.