To jam or not to jam (before Thanksgiving)?
Memories of Christmas are things I treasure. Decorating a Christmas tree, going to church on Christmas Eve and eating my mom’s Christmas cookies are things I will never forget. These memories of a cozy late December are always accompanied by a comforting soundtrack, something more than the crackling embers of the fireplace: Christmas music.
No matter what season, I could hear one Christmas song and suddenly feel the cool December breeze and smell pumpkin pie and pine trees. When December leaves, though, and January takes us into a new year, it is time to put away Bing Crosby and Mariah Carey with the rest of the lights, ornaments and stockings that directed our nostalgia. The hymns of Christmas, however, are not seasonal pieces.
It is widely disputed when secular Christmas songs became mainstream seasonal pieces. Songs like “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Up on the Housetop” have remained relevant since the 1800s, but the explosion of accessible entertainment in the 1940s also pushed secular Christmas music into the mainstream. Since then, Radio Fidelity’s Steve Harvey made a fitting statement concerning the nature of Christmas music: “Today, in fact, an important feature of Christmas carols is that they are only nominally about Christmas.”
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining / ‘Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth. / A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices / For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” We sing this song, “O Holy Night,” at Christmastime, remembering the birth of our Savior. But why do we neglect to celebrate his birth at other times of the year? While it is fitting that we set aside a specific time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, his birth is far too joyous an occasion to sing about during only one month of the year.
We Christians sing songs regarding the resurrection of Jesus year-round, as we should. However, what resurrection would there be to celebrate if Jesus never even came to take the form of a man? Our hope in Jesus exists because of the selflessness of Christ to come into meekness, pain and death for our sakes. Why is it that we relegate our singing of his first appearance in the world to one month of the year? That baby, born into a humble stable, was the opening of the curtains of hope to a world that once was without this good news of great joy. Now we know the joy, and we ought to constantly be reminded of the place from which he came.
Christmas has become a capitalist’s dream in terms of consumerism. Because of this, much of the music played on each radio station in an American December is a brilliant scheme of the world to paint Christmas as an all-inclusive celebration of some mysterious Western unionizer. Christmas is not an all-inclusive holiday, even for Westerners. It is, rather, a recognition and a celebration of the word becoming flesh in the form of Jesus (John 1:14). There is nothing wrong with listening to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Silver Bells” and other pop songs of the holiday, but they must not be known to represent this day unto Christ.
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Hebrews 13:15 gives a simple explanation as to the nature of our worship. If Christ-centered Christmas songs are conducive to one’s worship, then why must they be only sung within the bounds of December? A reasonable response to Hebrews 13:15 is denial of the cultural regularity of only singing of the birth of Jesus during December.
So, this year when we hear “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Away in a Manger,” let our nostalgia for this wonderful season continue long into the next year. We have no reason to silence our singing of the great proclamation of the newborn King. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Kilker is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion