In my family, carols herald the coming of Christmas. Trees and lights may come up any time between Dec 1st and Dec 24th. But the carols can come out last week of November, if we feel like it.
Some of my favourite carols are:
- Snoopy’s Christmas- who doesn’t love snoopy and his eccentric personas? But then there’s that nod to the WWI Christmas truce, which I find especially poignant.
- Peppermint Winter- Few can write lyrics like Adam Young. I love how this one has all the childlike joys of Christmas, but also acknowledge the more uncomfortable parts we know so well. “I twirl through the driveway with angelic grace, till I slip on the sidewalk and fall on my face”
- Six White Boomers- How can you not get a kick out of a song with kangaroos in it?
But those are just the lighthearted ones.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I’ve discovered the weight, the substance, in the carols that I’d previously taken for granted.
Take, for example, We Three Kings. I don’t think anyone really sings that second to last line. I wish they would.
Glorious now behold Him arise, God and king, and sacrifice! Hallelujah, hallelujah, earth to heaven replies!
Each of the previous verses highlight an aspect to the significance of Christ’s coming. Melchior reminds us that he is King. Gaspar reminds us that he is God. Balthazar reminds us that he is the sacrifice. All of it leading to the final verse, which brings the powerful message home.
Last year there was something in O Come, O Come Emmanuel that especially resonated with me.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan’s tyranny. From depths of hell thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.
This song of hope in troubled places touched on something that I had been thinking of often. I found myself with glasses pushed up over my forehead, knuckles pressed into my eyes, weeping as I had never wept over a song before.
This year I’m drawn to Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. I started singing it in October, actually. I think it was this song that first sparked my interest and attention to Christmas Carols. I remember singing with my church this line
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity!
That’s when I recognized the purpose behind the carols: worship.
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings! Mild he lays His glory by. Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth. Born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’
Now there’s a reason to sing.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.