Friday, December 21, 2012


One of the best things about Christmas is the music.  From familiar and traditional Christmas carols and songs to more contemporary fare, this season is full of wonderful tunes, many of which stir up emotions, memories, and thoughts.

I don't have the time or room to list every single Christmas song that has this "stirring" effect.  But here are six, in no particular order, that strike me.

C'mon Ring Those Bells! One of the first contemporary Christian artists I began listening to regularly was Evie. Her Christmas album, with "C'mon Ring Those Bells." was everywhere. I liked the nice feel about it, the bounce, the way it gave glory to Jesus. I also evokes some bittersweet memories, as that song was playing at a Christmas party I attended with a former girlfriend. I remember feeling very out of place at the party (in spite of the great music!). Two weeks later, my girlfriend broke up with me. But it also brings up happy memories, as a woman at our church would sing this every year, bringing a smile to everyone who heard it. 

Now Is Born the Divine Christ Child.  This is a good song.  Really, it is.  But like most songs that stir our emotions, memories, and imaginations, the song itself is secondary to remembering where we were and what we were doing at the time.  In this case, I think it was our fourth grade Christmas concert. If I'm not mistaken, there was an international theme that year.  So the boys, wiggling and squirming in their dress clothes, sang "Oh Tannenbaum." And the girls?  Well, they sang "Now Is Born the Divine Christ Child" in French.  And there, I think on the middle riser, was Lisa.  Dark hair, red sweater, great voice singing out  "Il est nĂ© le Divin Enfant."  I could almost see her look at me and smile.  I've never thought of that song the same way again (as for Lisa, my friend's friend assured me that Lisa not only did not like me, but "hated" me.  Tough news for fourth grade).

Oh Holy Night.  This is what I call a "thrill of victory and agony of defeat" song. It's a beautiful song which I have sung many times.  In my car.  Alone. Seriously though, the part where the singer belts out "oh" evokes chills and even tears when done by someone competent.  But I've also heard less-than-talented singers try it, often with disastrous results (such as the attempt by the men's Bible study group. You can still see the hairline cracks in the building foundation). So "Oh Holy Night" produces that moment of anticipation which marks a memorable experience.

The Messiah.  Yes, that Messiah.  By Handel.  And I'm talking about the whole multi-hour performance, not the abbreviated kind where they lift "Hallelujah" out of the middle and tack it on to the end for a big finish. I've cleaned and organized large spaces to this masterpiece, not only because I can't sit still and just listen to a looooooong piece of music, but because I can't sit down.  This composition is brilliant and based on Scripture.  Not saying every portion is my favorite, but there's enough that just makes my heart leap out in worship and adoration.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I get the strangest sense of melancholy when I hear this song. It's not that the message is bad. It's a nice, sentimental song, with affirming lyrics. But when I watch a Christmas movie or television show, what happens? The main character arrives at the lowest spot in his life. Things are bleak, he is in despair. The snow is falling. And then comes "Have yourself a merry little pathetic loser you!" It's almost mocking the hero of the show. Go on, watch a holiday drama and you'll see what I mean.

Anything by Andy Williams.  No, that's not the name of the song or album, just Christmas songs by the famous and popular singer.Whenever I hear "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" or even the "12 Days of Christmas" adaptation "A Song for the Christmas Tree," I remember long hours sitting in the living room, listening to our stereo record player (which was the size of some modern home theatre systems!).  Happy memories of growing up on Walton's Mountain...I mean, uhhh, growing up in southern Colorado.

What Christmas songs stir up the emotions, memories, and thoughts in you?  Share them in the comments below or on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


I said it before seriously, I said it before.  Right here in this post.  So I said it before and I'll say it again: I don't have a problem with the expression "Happy Holidays."

There is a cute music video making the rounds that has prompted me to once again lay out my thoughts regarding holiday greetings and the war on Christmas.

Yes, it's a cute song, but it misses the point: if all the decorations and every ounce of atmosphere is connected with Christmas, then how does saying "Happy Holidays" negate that?  The song lists all the fun things that would be eliminated without Christmas, yet I see no loss of the fun things where I shop. Nor do I know of non-Christians who have walked into their local mall, seen the tree, the lights, the ornaments, and a fanciful re-creation of a Christian saint and said, "All these Christmas decorations deeply offend me.  I was going to storm out of this mall in protest until one of the clerks wished me 'Happy Holidays.'  Now I feel better."

I used to work for a retail company owned by some nice gentlemen who were not Christian.  One was a self-proclaimed agnostic, both were fairly liberal in their world view, but they were both members of another faith tradition, which they practiced, uhhh, religiously.  Yet every December, they'd make sure all their stores were decorated in Christmas finery.  They would pass out Christmas bonuses. They would encourage each location to have an employee Christmas party.  I asked my manager (who happened to be a believer) about why our non-Christian owners would push Christmas so much.  The manager smiled and said, "it's good business."

There could be a million signs saying "Merry Christmas" (and yes, some stores have those signs).  But like the chain I worked for, it did not mean the same thing to me that it did to my employers. Now please don't misunderstand.  I think it is silly and illogical to have all the trappings of Christmas, but not call it Christmas. And yes, people need to be reminded of what Christmas is all about.  But the girl at the check stand making minimum wage is not the enemy in our annual war, anymore than was Bing Crosby as he crooned "Happy Holidays" in 1942.

For me and my house,  "Merry Christmas" will continue to be a theological statement, not just a greeting. And if somebody asks, I will be ready to give a reason of the hope that is in me (1 Peter 3:15). Meanwhile, folks: be nice...let's fight the war on the right front.