Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Caroling

One of the great delights of the Christmas season for me is the music. I love Christmas carols. I'm not talking about "Santa" songs. I'm talking about the songs that celebrate the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. These songs, for the most part, were written to be sung, not played on an instrument. They are vocal arrangements. I love Handel's Messiah, and not just the "Hallelujah Chorus" but the whole thing. My favorites, though, are those minor key songs like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "What Child is This?" Recently I've fallen in love with the minor key harmonies of "One Small Child". Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, has an excellent performance of this great song by David Meece at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtHQA9ThUwk&feature=related

Other songs that I love from Christmas include "O Little Town of Bethlehem", "Stille Nacht" (I prefer the German to the English), and of course, "O Come, All Ye Faithful". "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is the first Christmas song I ever played by sight-reading at the piano, so it has special place in my heart, too. There are so many wonderful songs about the birth of our Lord that I love to sing.

But why should this be so central to my Christmas? It is because I grew up in a home of music, and Christmas was doubly so. Three of my dad's four sisters played piano. And most of us lived within 100 miles of each other. Christmas was a time for family to get together. Yes, we'd eat, but mostly we'd gather around the piano. One of my dad's sisters would play, and we'd sing Christmas carols. Most of us read music (some read only shape notes, but that was okay since most of our books were shape note books), so we had plenty of harmony. Music was a central part of my childhood Christmas experience. But today I see the music as a key way of transmitting the gospel. Many people who do not regularly attend church will listen to Christmas carols. Keep the caroling tradition alive. Maybe get some friends together and go caroling through your neighborhood this Christmas. Think of it as another way to take a stand for Christ and remind everyone that HE is the reason for the season.

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