by Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
For many people, December is the most musical month of the year. The “sounds of Christmas” worm their way into our ears, often before Thanksgiving dinner is even finished. We hear the familiar strains of Mel Tormé, or Mariah Carey, or Bing Crosby, or the Carpenters coming out of the radio, through our television sets, across the shopping malls, and likely haunting us in our sleep.
For many generations, Christmas music meant the carols of Advent and Christmas – many of the songs and hymns we’ll be singing over the next few weeks – beloved tunes and texts about the anticipation and celebration of the birth of Jesus. In the last century or so, however, Western culture has added what is often referred to as “secular” Christmas music – songs about family and friends, food, parties, love, Santa Claus, presents and so forth. As someone who often gets asked to provide talent for various holiday functions, such as Christmas tree lightings, corporate parties, and the like, I’m often asked whether or not the singer can do “non-religious” holiday music. It has gotten to the point that if you asked the person on the street to name a Christmas song, you’re as likely to get “White Christmas” as you are “Silent Night.”
That said, I think the breadth and depth of seasonal music – both religious and secular – is a wonderful thing. I know people who decry the Tin Pan Alley or Pop Christmas song as neglecting “the reason for the season” – and we should never lose sight of why we celebrate and give thanks on December 25. But, I feel that many of the themes of these songs – friendship, family, peace and unity, generosity, love – are things that Jesus would want us to embrace, and in fact, would hope that we would be singing about throughout the year. And while we won’t be playing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” in service, I hope that when you do hear that song, or any of the dozens of other ear-worms that you’ll be bombarded with the next 35 days or so, you’ll think about the happiness and joy they bring to so many people of all cultures, the happiness and joy we are lucky enough to enjoy because we also know of the happiness and joy of the coming of Jesus.
P.S. I also think there hasn’t been a good Christmas song written since 1970’s “Merry Christmas, Darling.” Feel free to argue with me!