Notes to The New Possibility

John Fahey
Takoma C-1020
From the original Takoma cover (1968)

It is Christmas all year; let us rejoice ecstatically, but. . .

Paul Tillich once referred somewhere to the birth of Jesus Christ as "The New Possibility," in an attempt, I think, to deal with several problematic topics. Among these is the following: to divorce from Christian thought several secular and mythological and / or superstitious ideas connected with the "Christmas Story" as it is added to the Gospel of Matthew and later, according to many scholars using historical criticism, copied and edited by Luke. The earliest Gospel, Mark, makes no mention of this story nor does the latest, John. Jesus himself never referred to the popular conception of his birth and referred to his mother as "mother." Nowhere else in the gospels do we find references to astrologers, "no room in the inn," mangers, or angels attending, even the littlest one. I am certain that St. Francis of Assisi way back in the 13th century while attempting to Christianize the pagan winter solstice customs had no idea what would happen to his praespium. It happened. Nevertheless, we may yet rejoice.

While the Christmas story, garbled as it is, remains the most popular aspect of secularized, not to mention commercialized, Christianity, Tillich attempts to de-emphasize and, at the same time, give a new but forgotten meaning to this presumably minor and / or irrelevant portion of "Christian" thought with his term, "Die Neue Möglicheit." The birth of this New Possibility has nothing to do with Christmas trees, presents, Santa Claus, and little to do with superstitious thoughts regarding virgin births, astrologers, bodily ascensions of virgins, etc. The New Possibility is rather the gift of reconciliation between God and man. He is for all men at all times and places.

That he was begotten and not made is most important (non-propositionally significant). But the particular time and place of his birth is hardly the point - or rather, it is a matter for speculation.
What is also important is what he said. Easter is to me much more important than Christmas, and while I may have inadvertently misinterpreted Tillich elsewhere, I believe Easter is of much more importance to him also, and should be for the rest of us. Consequently, I am planning an Easter album of sorts but, analogously, it will have nothing to do with Easter Bunnies, nor with Easter eggs left by presumably viviparous rabbits. And, as with Christmas and other seasons, the album will emphasize that that most glorious event and season is a year-round cause for rejoicing. So, let us (and all year)!

Christmas and Easter are the two most important events of the Christian calendar, and should as such be celebrated with all due awe and respect, but not underneath a pagan Christmas tree, or in a department store, or by searching for the illusive commercial-divine EGG. I seriously doubt if the Son of Man ascended to Heaven on a rabbit; I doubt if He sits on the right hand of Santa Claus. And children do not need to be told these things; it makes Christianity much less possible for them in later years. Superstition does not aid Christianity; it does not need it. Christianity is not a religion of superstition anyway, although you may think it is.

Nevertheless, let us do celebrate and rejoice (in proper fashion) the New Possibility; and let us do so with music among other things. Insofar as this album is, unfortunately, a commercial product - someone might buy it as a Christmas present - I may be found to be in contradiction; also since it contains the secular "Auld Lang Syne" - a concession to the secular calendar - and "I Sing A Song of the Saints of God" (fantasy) - a concession to my own ignorance of Christmas Carols and their adaptability to the guitar. As for fantasies, most of the "Christmas Story" is one anyway. So, why not? I do not claim to be perfect, and I hope the reader / listener will forgive this slight transgression. As Rudolf Bultmann says, "We ought not to imagine this either in the arrogance of self-satisfaction or in the despondence of self-condemnation. Rather we should believe that our true life is hidden from us. Indeed even now we are already 'children of God' but 'it does not yet appear what we shall be' (I John 3:2)." (Used without permission from Existence and Faith, Meridian Books, pg. 281.)
The songs are, wherever possible, syncopated, not because I feel that syncopation or "swinging the Carols" is more in keeping "with the times" (about which I could care less - blast Hegel's legacy of PROGRESS!), but simply because I prefer to play them the way I do. . . I hope that you like my new arrangements - they are not progressive; "different" is the word - and I hope that you will celebrate Christmas with me, and above all rejoice in the fact of the Birth of The New Possibility.

John Fahey
October, 1968

The New Possibility