If you have been to the mall or been stuck in an elevator in the past few weeks, you’ve heard the “songs of the season”. I like Christmas music and have been listening to it since shortly after Halloween (thanks to Sirius/XM© radio). Some people say it is too much, but maybe that is because the same 6 songs seem to be repeated on the radio ad nauseum. I think that there is more than enough music to fill the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. “We need a Little Christmas”, don’t we? Isn’t the season better when we are “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” to “Sleigh Bells”, “Jingle Bells”, and “Jingle Bell Rock”? Even if “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer” and we’ll have a “Blue Christmas”, isn’t hearing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” better than having a “Silent Night”?
The other night my wife and I had the joy of hearing “Straight No Chaser”, an a cappella group most famous for their humorous rendition of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, at the Wang Theater in Boston. At the very end of the performance the group came out and sang, without amplification, “O Holy Night”. It is my absolute favorite Christmas song and is such a beautiful song with such a powerful message:
- “Long lay the world in sin and error pining ‘til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” – It seems appropriate that Christmas is celebrated in the darkest days of winter. As the hymn describes, prior to the Lord’s appearing all humanity was struggling with sin and error, even ignorantly. It was only in our reflection of Christ that we can fully comprehend the magnitude and weight of our depravity.
- “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” – The prior stanza’s depressing truth is quickly addressed by this hopeful exhilaration: that a new and glorious day has dawned and God has proclaimed peace and gracious goodwill to all.
- “In all our trials born to be our friend; He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger.” – The hymn writer makes sure the audience knows that Jesus, while fully God, is fully human. He did not come to condemn the world or judge our actions, but to save us and befriend us. He knows what we need and he knows what we struggle against. He wrestled with the same impulses and temptations.
- “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppression shall cease.” – The concluding verse reminds us that Jesus accomplished all that he came to accomplish; He broke the chains that bind us (bondage to sin, shackles of stereotype and bias, the imprisonment of guilt); He afforded us the opportunity to live together with one another as family; He brought forth the peace and gracious goodwill the angels announced (reconciliation with God and contentment on the earth).
I hope that at some point this Christmas you would ‘fall on your knees and hear the angels’ voices’ and ‘before Him lowly bend’. I hope that at some point this Christmas you would declare the ‘Christ is the Lord (and) praise His name forever’.
Now, where did I put that CD mix of Christmas favorites? I still have a number of ‘seasonal favorites’ I still haven’t heard this year.