I’m sure that the giant stack of papers I need to grade accounts for my breaking my Thinking Through Christianity silence today, but that’s all right — the joys of Christmas music are worth it. So here goes, amid the shiny pop strains of “All I want for Christmas is You” and the ten-jillionth (yes, “jillionth”) rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” here are 5 Christmas songs worthy of your attention:
1. Wexford Carol: This Irish/English carol, from the 12th century, is one of the oldest surviving European carols. Its opening lines are a beautiful call to maintaining memory of why we celebrate Christmas: “Good people all, this Christmas time, consider well and bear in mind what our good God for us hath done in sending His beloved Son.” Also, the linked recording, by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss is transcendent.
2. Sussex Carol: Apparently, I really like Christmas songs named after parts of England. You may also know it as “On Christmas Night All Christians Sing.” This one is remarkable for its lyrics, which point to the redemptive work of Christ:
Then why should men on earth be so sad
Since our Redeemer made us glad,
When from sin He set us free
All for to gain our liberty.
When sin departs before His grace,
Then life and health come in its place.
Angels and men with joy may sing
All for to see the new-born King.
I haven’t been able to find a recording that I really love, but my band and I perform this song each Christmas in an energetic, lilting style that always brings me the joy of Christmas. Maybe some day we’ll record it this way.
3. The third verse of “Joy to the World”: I know I’m being awfully lyrics-heavy here, but have you seen these wonderful words?
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
When we say “Joy the world,” we don’t just mean people, we also mean the earth. Christ’s coming signals the coming of His Kingdom, which extends to every bit of creation that has been tainted by sin and the fall. His blessings flow to the most wounded individual as well as to the most hurt part of the earth — and it even extends to horrible, horrible pop music. Yes, one day, we will hear perfect music on a perfectly restored planet, with perfectly restored bodies and souls. This is all part of the promise of redemption.
4. Come On, Everybody! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!: As far as I can tell, this Sufjan Stevens song has no deep theological value. But, for me, it captures the sheer joy of Christmastime like nothing else I can think of. Just listen for yourself and see if it doesn’t make you smile.
5. Here Comes the Sun: Okay, I know this isn’t technically a Christmas song, and some people at your church would look at you really strangely if you started playing this on Sunday morning, but the theme of this song is what Advent is all about — I mean, people have been using images of light shining in the darkness as metaphors for the Messiah for a long time. Just check out this passage from Isaiah 9:
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy…
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…
To which, I joyously respond, “Sun, sun, sun, here it comes!”
Happy Christmas, everyone!
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)