Christmas shopping is going full tilt both at the brick-and-mortar stores as well as online. Then there are all the special events — the Christmas parties, programs, concerts and worship services.
Speaking of concerts, I went to two wonderful Christmas concerts this past weekend, and the music was just outstanding. Not only do I love Christmas, I love the music of Christmas. It is so beautiful and inspiring.
When you think of all the great Christmas songs, you have to admit that they have added so much to our culture and way of life. I can hardly wait to sing the songs of Christmas at church. In fact, I start listening to Christmas music online pretty much the week after Thanksgiving.
Just out of curiosity, I decided to Google “The Ten Greatest Christmas Carols” the other day. I must say that I was a bit disappointed with what most of the lists came up with. One list had the following, beginning with No. 10: “Must be Santa,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Let it Snow,” “White Christmas,” “Silent Night” and “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole.
What? No “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”?
Now I get it — those songs are probably indeed very popular. Most people find them cute and even fun. OK, I’ll confess, sometimes I even find myself humming along to them when I hear them on the radio. Still, most of them completely miss the mark as far as describing the original story of Christmas. At least “Silent Night” made the list.
For me, and I’m sure most of my readers, Christmas is far more than a cute story about Santa Claus, elves, reindeer and cold, snowy winter nights made for snuggling. It is the miraculous story of a gracious, loving God reaching out to the world in the gift of His Son, Jesus. This biblical story, found in Luke, chapter 2, and Matthew, chapter 2, is declared in so many ways in countless magnificent songs and carols from cultures all around the world. And most every song conveys the message of peace, love and joy which so well describes the Gospel. You cannot help being inspired by them.
So, here’s my list of the top 10 sacred Christmas songs and carols, beginning with No. 10: “O Come, O Come, Emanuel,” “Good Christian Friends (Men), Rejoice,” “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming,” “Away in a Manger,” “What Child is This,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “The First Noel,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night,” “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night.”
Wow, that was hard! There are so many great Christmas songs. If you counted, I think you will discover that I put more than 10 in the list. And I could have included many more.
I encourage you to listen to these songs during the month of December. Or, better yet, I sincerely encourage you to attend a Christmas service at one of our local churches and sing the songs with a group of others. To do so is an extremely uplifting and inspiring experience. And I can’t help but think that the reason these songs are such a blessing is because they tell us with great joy how God, loving the world so much, sends His Son, Jesus, to teach us how to love others.
I once heard of an old Christmas legend about how God called the angels of heaven together one day for a special choir rehearsal. God had a special song He wanted them to sing, saying they would sing the song on a very significant occasion.
As time passed, the angels sounded better and better. Finally, God announced that they were ready. But He shocked them by saying that they would sing the song only once on one night. The angels weren’t too pleased with that. It was such a beautiful song they thought they should sing it again and again. God just smiled, knowing that they would soon understand.
When the night came, God called the choir together and gathered them above a field just outside of Bethlehem. At God’s instruction, they began to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward all.” Needless to say, they sang it beautifully, heralding the birth of a tiny baby.
Some of the angels loved the song so much that they begged God for permission to sing it again. “Why can’t we sing that song anymore?” they asked.
“Because,” God answered, “my Son has been born, and now the Earth must do the singing!”
Indeed, what God did was so wonderful that we must sing about it. So sing!
— By the Rev. John Koedyker, pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church, Grand Haven.