As of this Friday, November 3rd, Christmas is 51 days away – a lifetime when you’re a child, but something of the mere blink of the eye as an adult.
The flipping of the calendar from Halloween to November often triggers thoughts of the Yuletide season, and some local radio stations waste no time taking full advantage of that correlation. All-day Christmas music formats are kicking into high gear.
Christian opinion about when it’s appropriate to start listening to Christmas music varies widely. Writing in World Magazine today, the screenwriter Ted Kluck, likely with his tongue in the side of his cheek, offers his two cents:
“Only when it’s cold,” he says. “I know, I know. You’re thinking, ‘Cold is subjective. … I mean, if you live in certain parts of the mid-South, 61 feels cold, but if you live in say, Fargo, 61 feels downright balmy.’”
He then goes on to note, “Santa Baby is never admissible.”
Traditionalists often cite the day after Thanksgiving as an appropriate starting point, a reasonable standard by almost every measure.
Our oldest son is nearly militant when it comes to the debate. He suggests it’s near sacrilege to listen outside of December.
It seems good people can disagree on matters of music. But assuming Christmas music are worship tunes designed to celebrate our Lord’s birthday and pay homage to Him, should it ever be out of season to sing of the Incarnation on any given day of the year?
Christmas music with good theology seem appropriate twelve months out of the year.
As a child, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” was my favorite of all the carols. Originally a poem written by the English Methodist Charles Wesley, who penned over 6,000 hymns, he was said to have been inspired to write it after hearing church bells on Christmas Day. The Anglican cleric and evangelist George Whitefield, a colleague of Wesley’s, adapted and revised it.
All the verses are jubilant and triumphant, but the third verse sums up the significance of Christ’s purpose just beautifully:
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen 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.
“O Come, All Ye Faithful” is probably my favorite carol as an adult. Often accompanied by brass and rich instrumentation, it’s written in a way that allows congregations to sing robustly together. I find the fourth verse particularly meaningful.
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to The be all glory giv’n!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” was written by the Episcopal pastor Phillips Brooks of Boston. He was inspired to write it after visiting the Holy Land on Christmas Eve in 1865.
Its most memorable line is also its most profound:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Over two thousand years since that first Christmas night, the “hopes and fears” of a weary world continue to rage against each other. It’s only in Christ’s coming that we find peace and contentment.
Debates over Christmas music should be lighthearted good fun, but whether serious or not, Kluck’s right about “Santa Baby.