When I was fifteen years old, my friends and I went Christmas Carolling door to door to raise money for the Vancouver Sun’s “Stocking Fund”. We were an unlikely bunch to be Christmas Carolling. My best friend was a self-professed atheist from a family of atheists. My other two friends were Jewish, and I was a lapsed Anglican who skied on Sundays at Mount Seymour. We vigorously sang the Christmas Carols and raised a lot of money. But I for one, never stopped to really listen to the words.
I have always loved Christmas Carols, but I find that year after year, the carols become more special and meaningful to me. I no longer just love the familiar tunes. I love the words as well, and the Christmas message behind it. Webster’s Dictionary defines a carol as
A song of joy, rapture or gladness; as, the carol of birds
A hymn of praise, especially in honour of the Nativity (birth of the baby Jesus).
The word “carol” is derived from the Medieval Latin “chordula” which means a dance to the flute. The word “carol” can be broken into two original Greek words: choros = dance and dulos = flute. I cannot think of a better word to celebrate my joy at the birth of the “Lord of the Dance”.
What are your favourite carols? O Little Town of Bethlehem is a popular one. Other favourites are O Come All Ye Faithful, Away in a Manager, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Good King Wenceslas, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Joy to the World, Silent Night, We Three Kings, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks. Many of us, whether we are active churchgoers or not, can sing a number of these from heart.
My challenge to each of us this Christmas is to listen more carefully to the words as we sing. For example, “O Come All Ye Faithful” encourages us to “O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord”. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” has us singing “O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today”. “Away in a Manager has us singing “Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever, and love me I pray”. And finally the very popular carol “Joy to the World” has us sing “Joy to the World! The Lord has come; let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare Him room.”
My prayer for Christmas is that as many seekers once again sing their favourite Christmas Carols, the words will jump from the pages into their hearts.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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