I was entirely prepared-I even had the first paragraph written out-to write a very, very Grinchy blog all about the commercial aspects of the Season. However, while ruminating on that topic, I was distracted by my quest for new, good Christmas music (tricksy iTunes…).
I think the first thing I need to do it draw a distinction between what I consider the two main types of Christmas music.
First off, we have what I like to call Christmas Jingles. Little tunes or ditties of little really meaning. Examples would be anything that involves reindeer, elves, Santa, jingle bells, snow (most of the time), any form of candy, Christmas drinks (other than wassail) and anything overtly sad. I’ll admit, I generally don’t like these. Yes, I know the words to them, and I will sing my little heart out when I hear them, but they annoy me, my dear readers. I blame my parents. Specifically, my mother. It’s not a bad thing. Growing up, I can’t really remember a moment when we all sang, oh, I dunno…It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas. Now, I can EASILY remember singing Oh Holy Night, or O Come, O Come Emanuel. I will conceded that we sang Jingle Bells a few time, but I’m pretty sure there was an extra verse in there about Jesus. We never had Christmas album that had jingles about marshmallows or what you wanted for Christmas…as I’ve aid before, in my home, growing up, Christmas was about JESUS.
It was NOT about a Santa. It was NOT about snow. It was NOT about commercialism. It WAS about our Salvation. It WAS about the incarnation of Our Lord. It WAS about good tidings of GREAT JOY.
But I’ve lost the track, which I’m sure if you’ve read more than one of my posts, you should be used to by now.
Anyway, lets look at the other kind of Christmas music. Carols! It’s at this point where I REALLY wish I could do some etymological research and find out the history of the word. I just think that kind of stuff is awesome. However, I think Christmas carols are just really THE Christmas music. They can be identified by covering topics like Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, angels, and a varied and wide range of other Bible-y topics. I think that, generally, these are best sung by a large group of people, with at least a quarter of the people singing must be tone deaf. (It’s not Christmas unless you have an incredibly tone deaf friend singing in your ear and throwing you WAY off mark…)These tend to have been written in the Middle Ages and tweaked as the years move on. (authors note: I think I made that up. It’s not a fact. It just seems that way to me.) I generally will disregard anything about Christmas written between 1935 to today. With that said, there are two songs, which I DEFINITELY consider carols what were written much more recently that entirely shake my world when I hear them.
The first is Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven, which I can’t imagine singing in a group. I’m really blowing holes in my argument here, aren’t I? Meh, oh well. This song…OH this song! I’ll post the lyrics here for you
I have traveled many moonless nights/Cold and weary with a babe inside/And I wonder what I’ve done/Holy Father, You have come/And chosen me now to carry Your Son
I am waiting in a silent prayer/I am frightened by the load I bear/In a world as cold as stone/Must I walk this path alone?/Be with me now, be with me now
Breath of Heaven, hold me together/Be forever near me, breath of Heaven/Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness/Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy/Breath of Heaven
Do you wonder as you watch my face/If a wiser one should have had my place?/But I offer all I am/For the mercy of Your plan/Help me be strong, help me be, help me
Breath of Heaven, hold me together/Be forever near me, breath of Heaven/Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness/Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven, hold me together/Be forever near me, breath of Heaven/Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness/Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy/Breath of Heaven, breath of Heaven/Breath of Heaven
I mean, come on now! She, the barer of the Christ Child, becomes not all that different from us. Sure, she had some advantages, depending on your particular theological view, but still. she was young, and God was asking her to do the impossible. And she, Blessed as she was, asked for help, grace and strength.
The second one, also about Mary, is Mary Did You Know. I first heard this one in high school, and was decidedly unimpressed. I thought it was theologically incorrect, which at that time in my life, was an unforgivable crime (I mean, obviously she knew Jesus was, well, Jesus…right??) I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t like this song until about 3 hours ago, when I heard Cee-Lo Green‘s version. The two reasons this particular version so touched me are that a) I actually listened to the lyrics and b) Cee-Lo is AMAZING. I’ve never been a huge fan, just sang the song “Forget You” very loudly and awkwardly at a bar to a certain guy I felt had shafted me. I literally had NO IDEA the level of musician that he is. Give it a listen:
Really, even without the movie excerpts, it is till amazingly moving.
I could go on for pages and pages about this topic. But, I won’t. I will, however, offer you a challenge. ask yourself, am I listening to Seasonal music (which is fine…Celtic Christmas is a favorite of mine…not overtly spiritual) or am I listening to actual Christmas carols? Do you want to change this? Do you think you should??
Merry Christmas, y’all.