I love Christmas Carols. Even when I feel dead to everything else about Christmas, Christmas Carols seem to wake me up from within. Music has an amazing way to slip past even the most hardened heart.
Christmas is one of those traditions that won’t go away, and yet so often seems off kilter. It so often seems to lack purpose and focus. The John Grisham movie “Christmas with the Kranks” symbolizes the angst of people swallowed by Christmas-related paraphernalia. Christmas Carols are ideal for helping us regain focus at Christmas.
Randy Stonehill poignantly sang: “I wonder if this Christmas they’ll begin to understand that the Jesus that they celebrate is much more than a man…” The first purpose of Christmas is to bring pleasure to God, otherwise called Worship. That is why at Christmas so many of us love to sing: “O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord”. For many years, Christmas to me was just about eating turkey and getting presents. Being dragged to church on Christmas Eve or even worse Christmas morning seemed like a serious intrusion into an otherwise good festival. As I have refocused on the real meaning of Christmas, I hear afresh the Christmas Carol singing: “O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, o come ye to Bethehem”.
Year after year, Christmas miraculously brings friends and families back together. When I was younger, I enjoyed spending Christmas with my grandparents and family, but didn’t fully realize what a wonderful gift this was. The second purpose of Christmas, I have discovered, is fellowship. At the heart of lasting fellowship is great food, lots of fun, and deep listening. God put us here on earth to learn how to love each other. Christmas is a great time to do that. Christmas is a time when like shepherds summoned to his cradle, we leave our flocks and then flock together.
I never realized when I was young that Christmas was meant to transform me. Years later I discovered that all that joy at Christmas had a third purpose: to make me more like Christ, which is Discipleship. As that great Christmas Carol puts it, “Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice! Now you need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!” There is a joy released at Christmas that can radically transform anyone’s life if we will let it. That is why the Good Book says that the Joy of the Lord is our strength.
Christmas for me as a young person was about getting bigger and better presents. Years later I have discovered that Christmas is really about giving. Giving is not just about presents, but mostly about our hearts. The fourth purpose of Christmas is about serving others, especially the poor. Good old Scrooge learnt this lesson the hard way at Christmas. As Good King Wenceslas put it, “Therefore Christian men be sure, wealth and rank possessing, ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.” We may not like the three wise men have gold, frankincense, and myrrh to give, but when we give from our heart, Christmas becomes real to another hurting person.
When I was younger, I thought that Christmas was about me. In fact, I have discovered that Christmas is about others. That is why the fifth purpose of Christmas is “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born”. Christmas is too good to keep it to ourselves. Christmas is the kind of fun and laughter and joy that everyone needs more of. Do you know anyone who needs cheering up? Do you know anyone who has lost direction? If you do, I encourage you to reach out and bring others this Christmas to a joyful Christmas Eve service near you.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-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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