I did some lolling, and in the course of it discovered the answer to Universehall’s difficult question: what holiday mysteries should you stay away from? Generally speaking, I forget books I don’t enjoy pretty quickly, so I was stumped on that. However, Dog Gone Christmas is a really badly written book, so riddled with errors that it was about as enjoyable to read as the first essays in remedial English classes, and I wasn’t even being paid to read it. I gave up on it and sent it off to a fellow frugalreader, who may enjoy it more than I did.

My show last night was at a gym, so I made highly nutritious wonton cups with chicken salad at 50 calories apiece, and dipped pretzels calibrated to be a mere 10 calories apiece. Only the thin people ate them. The staff ate them and exclaimed over their deliciosity. Fit exercisers ate them and then ordered pizza stones and cake decorators.

Heavier people, who might actually have benefited more from finding tasty holiday treats at such low calorie counts, rushed away as though I had been selling drugs. One woman, looking askance at my ten-calorie confections, picked up a catalog. I laughingly assured her that there were no calories in the catalog. “No?” she said in a worried voice. “Well, I don’t know. I’m trying to be really good.” She set the catalog down and left.

One of the goals I have for next year in my business is to determine which marketing efforts are worthwhile and which are not. Then I can focus on those that are. But at this point, I can’t really tell. I had equal numbers of orders and bookings at the shows on Sunday and Monday. I did a good deal of driving for one, and bought some groceries for the other. At both, I might well have developed relationships that will turn out to be mutually beneficial for years to come. It’s also time for me to renew my website, which has a cost and no site meter. I know that the price is small, as websites go, and that I have covered it with the profit of orders so far, but I don’t know how it would compare with putting the same investment into a different medium. I don’t yet have enough experience with this to know when I’m succeeding.

I like to think, during Advent, about my goals for the following year. 2007 has been a year of big changes for my family, including me. Those big changes have in some cases led to completion of my goals for this year, and in some cases they have derailed goals I had for this year. So I may have a couple of goals to recycle for next year, as well as a couple of new ones.

Today I have for you one of my favorite Advent hymns, and indeed one of my favorite hymns at all, “Comfort, Comfort Ye, My People.” This is one of those 17th century German hymns, but I like to sing it in a jazzy syncopated style, and if you listen to it, you will hear that it sounds good that way. In fact, it has such a modern feel that people generally think it is a modern song. I would love to hear it with a steel drum. That is just how it seems to me it would be best, though admittedly Olearius would not have had any steel drums on hand and therefore would not have chosen them. If you like your music bigger and flashier, not to mention slower, you can also find this in Bach chorales (eight of them; he really liked this tune) and Pachelbel organ pieces and stuff, under the name “Freu dich sehr.” It is also known as “Old Forty-Second,” from the Genevan psalter, in which it was used for the 42nd psalm. It works well as a madrigal, too, and with lush harmonies (well, yeah, Bach and Pachelbel are a clue there, huh?).

In fact, the only way I don’t like this tune done is in even rhythms. A few years ago, #2 daughter and I got up a quartet to do this for the Christmas Eve service, and the organist asked, “Do you like it as a madrigal or as a dirge?” I thought that was very funny at the time. However, it is true that it is sometimes sung with a very slow, stately, even tempo. This is an error. Only do that if you have been singing this every Sunday in Advent for forty years and are desperate for variety.

The words are from Isaiah 40. Johann Schop wrote another tune for these words, but it is not as good. Advent is short, and “Comfort, Comfort Ye” is, like mince and pecan pies, only available to us at this time of year. You can go around all day humming this tune, and it will cheer you even if you don’t have any pie.