Monday, April 14, 2008

[Xanga] Christmas carols

...born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.

So, I was just watching a Christmas episode of The Simpsons (among many others), and they closed with the entire town of Springfield singing "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing". It got me thinking:

What is it like for a non-Christian to sing a Christmas carol?

And don't get it twisted, like I'm thinking about the entire season in general. I understand how the "holiday season" can be a good time for all, regardless of your specific faith background. And there are songs which are just whatever whatever, like "Deck the Halls" or "Christmas in Hollis" or them likewise joints.

But what about Christmas carols, as in, the real ones? The ones which are specifically and explicitly proclaiming the birth of Christ, the son of God, born that he might die to save the world, and the sinners in it?

God and sinners reconciled

Lines like this seem like they would be less than meaningless to someone who doesn't believe in the Christian faith. And, sure, I can understand how certain melodies can be strongly evocative. But there's a mad difference between how I feel when I hear Ja Rule and Ashanti's ode to vague-commitment, "Always on Time", and a Christmas carol like "O Come All Ye Faithful," something that goes beyond my specific and individual memories of those songs, and accesses a picture of the future, not merely the past.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing

This is a challenge to me, too, and to all Christians. How easy is it to hear the first few bars of a melody and think, oh hey, i know this song. we used to sing it together at my kindergarten holiday party before winter break. How many times have I, shopping in the mall, heard Christmas carols blaring harshly over the intercom, and let them fade into the chatter and commotion of the background? How many times have I heard those words without listening to them?

How often do I live my life as a Christian without listening to Christ? And how much of Christmas have I let become - as the traditionalist refrain (aka the depressing view of modern Christmas) cries out - a crass celebration of modern materialism and wealth-elitism?

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;

Do we understand Joy? Do we understand that Joy and Christ are one? "Joy to the World" is not saying that there is joy to be found in the world. It is saying precisely the opposite: that Christ has come, and, in doing so, brought Joy, the antithesis of the world's happiness, into a world unprepared for it.

How easy is it to say "Joy to the World," and yet to fail to proclaim the name of that Joy! How easy to forget why it is I rejoice.

I'm not interested in no easily-spouted rhyming catchphrases like "Jesus is the reason for the season" or "without Christ there'd be no Christmas", that's not on my level: Amazing rhymes for days anyways, ya dig. But what I am interested in is this: I claim to be a Christian, and to sing

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angels' voices!

and just treat it as music is beyond foolish, it's blasphemous. For me to think of Christmas and not think first of the birth and death of Christ is to go against - and I do this mad often, so don't even think i'm tripping - everything I claim to stand for. Which I do on a daily (if not hourly) basis anyways, but that's another deal going down. Just a little self-reflection.

And for those who claim to not be Christians (or who actually are not Christians, which is prahlee identical anyways, but Rahner would have something to say about that), what joy do you find in Christmas? I'd really appreciate it if you took some time to think and wonder... why does Jesus's birth matter to a Christian? I'm sure Moonies celebrate the birth of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and, i mean, i know people that celebrate TUPAC and ROBERT NESTA MARLEY's birthdays... but is there something different in it for Christians? Does it matter that Christ was born, beyond the fact that he started this whole Christianity ball rolling? I think it does. Why? Just a little reflection. Consider it your Christmas present to me.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
od is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men. - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, 4th stanza

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet seen of old,
When with the ever-encircling years
Shall come the time foretold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.
- It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, last stanza

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