Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Carols


                             A Message for the Season

This Christmas season brings memories of growing up in the quiet village of Scotia New York. The winter holiday season was always highlighted by the Lincoln Elementary School carol sing. This was a mandatory school event which featured all the students of the school assembling in bone chilling cold to offer heartfelt renditions of a variety of Christmas classics.
The songs were always Christmas songs, some with religious themes and some with wintertime and seasonal themes. There was never any apology made to non-believers and there was no such thing as political correctness and,  as far as I know, no student was ever excused because “we don’t believe in that.” So, we took turns lining up in front of our freezing parents, singing our little  hearts out and, afterwards, we were treated to Christmas cookies and other delights.
Thoughts of this annual event came to me the other day as I posed the question to the operating room crew: “What is your favorite Christmas carol?”
My assistant across the table offered up “O Christmas Tree”, a wonderful song that speaks of the steadfast, faithful and unchanging nature of God. The others in the room were stumped and did not give an immediate response. Years ago while I was reading the autobiography of Harpo Marx there was one anecdote recounted where he and some of the very literate people of his day asked a very similar question; only their question was “name the best song of all time”. Their collective answer was “Silent Night”.
I really believe that “Silent Night” is a beautiful song that captures the holy nature of the newly born Jesus, but it really does not do justice to the events surrounding that wonderful Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve started as thousands of other nights had begun, quiet, cold, mundane. But, all of a sudden, for no obvious reason, the shepherds in the field have this quiet solitude rudely interrupted. An angel comes to announce a birth, the birth of a Savior. Then, the night sky suddenly becomes bright and is filled with all the Heavenly host announcing the birth of a new King, but not just any old earthly king. This is the King of the universe, a baby, God’s own Son, sent to save the world. This is an event that was anything but silent. It was and is, rather, a reason for shouting; shouting with joy as the angels announce a new order for our world, one that promises Peace and Goodwill.
The shepherds leave their flocks and investigate and what do they find? The baby, lying in a manger. Perhaps at this moment there is silence as they, along with Mary and Joseph, ponder the cosmic implications of this singular event. The silence is brief, however, as the shepherds leave and spread the news to everyone that can hear, all the while singing praises to God. Definitely, the Christmas story is not one of silence.
My response to the question, “What is your favorite Christmas carol?” results in a tie. My first favorite is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. This song brings all the joy and exaltation of Christmas, while also summarizing all the hopes for mankind that Jesus brings. It is best sung with all the power and force one can muster; a true celebration of the true meaning of Christmas.
My other favorite carol is “The Little Drummer Boy”. It is a relatively modern song, written in 1958, but it carries a message that I think we all should heed. Christmas is about giving. God gave this world the greatest gift imaginable, his only Son. But he didn’t just send his son to live among us. Jesus came for one purpose: to reconcile a wayward, sinful people to their Holy God. It is this great spirit of giving all that you have that “The Little Drummer Boy” presents. This spirit of giving and hope is the true message of Christmas, a message for the Christmas season and all the year.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th' angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail, the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

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.
Risen with healing in His wings,
Light and life to all He brings,
Hail, the Son of Righteousness!
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

Come, Desire of nations come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the Woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface:
Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam, from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

Little Drummer Boy
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.