Hackneyed Holiday Tunes

In Austria, labor unions were up in arms. No, they didn't want higher wages or better benefits. They wanted the stores where their members work to stop what they call "psychological terrorism": The incessant, nonstop playing of Christmas carols. And they said stop them or else. Gottfried Reiser, a leader in the anti-music campaign, said that after ninety-nine repetitions of "Frosty the Snowman," store employees "become aggressive and develop an aversion to Christmas music." By Christmas Eve, at home with their families, "they can't stand 'Silent Night' or 'Jingle Bells' one more time." Well, I can relate. Every year, we seem to hear Christmas carols earlier and earlier in November. By December 25, you become tone-deaf -- I mean, I love Christmas carols, but too much of a good thing is too much. The sad result is that even our most beloved holiday hymns are stripped of their power to move us. They become trivialized by the sheer, endless repetition. May I suggest that you and your family spend some time this Christmas exploring some unfamiliar holiday music -- ancient carols that help us understand how Christians through the centuries have communicated the meaning of Christmas through song. For example, there's a 300-year-old English carol called "Up Good Christian Folk and Listen." The song includes these lyrics: Tell the story Of the Glory. God came down At Christmastide. In barely one minute this carol tells almost everything we need to know about Christmas. Then there's the fifteenth-century German carol, "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming." This hymn emphasizes an essential part of God's nature -- His faithfulness: Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the Rose I have in Mind; of Mary we behold it, the Virgin mother kind. Through the prophets, God promised that a Savior would arise from the line of Jesse. In the fullness of time, as the apostle Paul put it, God kept His promise. Reflecting on the meaning of the Incarnation should be the goal of every Christian in this season. It's the season of the year to recall Jesus' first coming in humility and to meditate on His second coming in glory. Music is a rich part of this tradition, which is why exploring how faith as expressed through song is a wonderful way to meditate on the real meaning of Christmas. So when the commercialized, overworked sound of, say, Alvin and the Chipmunks attacking Christmas carols makes you want to commit acts of violence to the sound system -- or at least say, "Bah! Humbug!" -- try sampling some of the music that has brought Christians closer to God for centuries, music that "tells the story of the Glory." For further reading and information: "Shop workers demand Xmas muzak compensation," Ananova, 3 December 2003. "Xmas cheer makes Austrians sour," BBC Online, 4 December 2003. Listen to "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming." You can also listen to it here. Visit Beliefnet's "Virtual Choir Festival" for more recommendations. Evelyn Bence, Spiritual Moments with the Great Hymns (Zondervan, 1997). See the BreakPoint commentaries, "'The Word' at Christmas," "Handel's Masterpiece," "More than Pretty Music," "The Broken Organ," and "Recycled Music." T. M. Moore, "Whatever Happened to Singing?BreakPoint Online, 5 December 2003. Michael Snyder, "Holy Invasion," BreakPoint WorldView, December 2003. John Fischer, "The Scandal of the Dancing Christ," BreakPoint Online, December 2001. William J. Tighe, "Calculating Christmas," Touchstone, December 2003. Visit the White House "Season of Stories" web page. Candace Z. Watters, "Adding Meaning to the Holidays," Boundless, 11 December 2003. J. Budziszewski, "Unmerry Christmas," Boundless, 11 December 2003.


Chuck Colson


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