Finding the Art in Everything

24 December, 2008

Christmas Carols

Over the years, working retail has demolished all of my appreciation for Christmas music. There are too few songs played far too often. I have noticed them trickle in as early as Halloween!

This year I was fairly successful at avoiding not only Christmas music, but the whole run up to Christmas. As every year, much of this can be blamed by school's end-of-term madness. I miss out on a lot of the season's festivities due to school stress. (It's why I mail valentines instead of Christmas cards). More than ever, however, my season was marked by musical underexposure.

This is significant because the songs I heard and sang at the Christmas Eve service actually meant what they were supposed to--a profound religious reflection of the second most--that's right, second--most important Christian event. Christians celebrate the birth of Christ because it is the miraculous beginning to the story that results in the redemption of humanity.

For me, though, I have always had a hard time connecting stars and livestock and mute infants and local princes to the adult Gospel. Much of the Christmas carols concentrate on what seem to be fictitious or impractical accounts of that night. There was no little drummer boy at the birth of Christ, and it was NOT a Silent Night--it was high-risk medical procedure inadequately performed on a teen mother, likely producing an infant who was cold and screaming, supernaturally announced to a processional of strangers. What teen mother is ready to receive a crowd of strange men hours after she had been through labor in a barn? Add a child with a percussion instrument to the scene and someone will be punched.

"O Holy Night" is my favorite Christmas carol, and by that, I mean one of the few I look forward to hearing. And I wish everyone could hear the one I heard at the service, with my friend Jon adding some really powerful drums. It was breathtaking. The song is already really beautiful, but this the best version I'd ever heard. I like this song, because it IS one of the ones that connects the events of Christmas to the adult Gospel. When people say that the "true meaning of Christmas is Jesus," they still might miss the point if they concentrate his infancy for the month of December. "O Holy Night" explains why the night is so magnificent, and worth everything that we call, on our best days, true Christmas:

O Holy Night -

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels' voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

O night divine, O night, O night Divine.


Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,

His power and glory evermore proclaim.

His power and glory evermore proclaim.

The song, unlike many of the others, not only reminds us that Christ was born on Christmas, but that He was the Savior to a world that was desperate for it: people in sin and error, those in chains and those who face oppression, a world that is collectively weary of itself. And for those who believe in the Gospel, what happens on Christmas is extraordinary; the moment Christ is born, God's process for real restoration--the kind that restores the worth of a soul--commences and no day is the same after.

The birth of Christ begins a new era in human history, and no matter how familiar the tune, the Truth of this song ensures the song's purpose is not lost: I really do fall to my knees in awe and praise.

1 comment:

Apollo said...

I really like your rationale. I see this song in a whole new way now. After hearing/singing it so many times, one forgets the meaning of the song and no longer pays attention to the words.