I will admit that I have not always been a fan of Christmas music. Honestly, I have nothing against Christmas music, just Christmas music played out of season. It used to really bother me. Christmas gets a whole month; all of December is devoted to this holiday, why do we need Christmas music and decorations before the 1 of December? It just seems like overkill to me. As I said, Christmas gets an entire month, what more do you want?
Now, before you start calling me Ebenezer, I will say that I do enjoy Christmas season, I love Christmas lights, Christmas songs, decorating a Christmas Tree, Christmas cookies, the whole she-bang. Especially the cookies! I just think that there is too much commercialization of Christmas songs – songs about Santa and reindeer and presents and all of that, while fun and entertaining, distract from the purpose of Christmas.
So, while I may rail and rant against Christmas music, I absolutely love the Christmas hymns. I love those songs of a sacred nature that express the spirituality of Christmas, that sing of Jesus Christ and remind of us his birth, his life, his atoning sacrifice and what that means for us. One of my favorite Christmas hymns is Silent Night, or in the German original Stille Nacht. Maybe I have been drawn to this song because of its German history, but as soon as I found out it was originally German, I learned the German words and that is all that I sing anymore. The English translation is pretty good, it’s as close as translations can be, especially when they are trying to rhyme and fit the music, but the German words just hold so much meaning for me.
Another hymn that I enjoy is Ring Out Wild Bells. When I was younger I made fun of this song because it is just so depressing. “The year is dying in the night;Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.” Yeah, that’s just what you want to be singing at Christmastime. And the music is so slow and low that it sounds more like a funeral dirge than a happy Christmas tune. But, again, as I read the German words, I found a hymn and a message that I love. “Er führet uns zu Gott zurück, Allein in Jesus liegt unseren Glück”, He leads us back to God, Alone in Jesus lies our happiness.
That is the message of Christmas that I love so much. Jesus Christ is the only way to return to our Father in Heaven, and at this time of the year we remember his birth. He was born, meek and lowly, as we all are, and grew, as John describes it, “from grace to grace, until he received a fullness“. This is why I celebrate Christmas, to remind me of Jesus and what he did for us. And I love the German tradition of gift-giving that has transferred to the United States. Originally, on the 6th of December, Saint Nicholas’s Day, children would leave their newly cleaned and polished shoes by their beds or outside their doors, and Saint Nicholas would come and fill them with candy and toys if they were good, or with switches if they were not. Martin Luther, during the Reformation, did not like this since it put an emphasis on Catholic saints over Jesus Christ, so he moved this from the 6th to the 24th and said that it was not Saint Nicholas who left gifts, but the Christchild.
I like this a lot more. It is not some saint, or old guy in a red suit, but Jesus Christ, who gives us the greatest gift of all. He it is that gives us every good thing that we receive. And in this Christmas season we remember his birth and the story of wise men who brought him gifts, and we realize that we must offer him our entire selves, allow him to change us completely, and then we can be worthy of receiving the gift that God wants to give to us: eternal life and salvation.
And, so I will continue to grumble about Frosty and Rudolph being played in October, but I will also continue to sing my favorite carols year-round.