It was a joy to have the local school in St Anne’s for their Carol Concert; it was a joy to see the church candle-lit for the Carol Service last Sunday and then last Monday we had the Christmas Party for the Toddler Group and we told the Christmas Story again, hopefully in a way that the older ones could understand. Three very different events, but all sharing the same story, and all including song, carols and songs, because you can’t really imagine Christmas without a sound-track. The radio gets taken over by December 1st with Christmas songs and how many there are, and we will all have our favourites and even the ones we love to hate. The shops have Christmas songs playing – you can’t escape them even if you only dash in to get whatever we had forgotten!
And we have our favourite carols and the ones we don’t like, maybe because of the tune, maybe we don’t like the words; some are peculiar – why does King Wenceslas get immortalised in this country? Why do three ships go sailing to Bethlehem which is miles from a river or the sea? What was the fascination with holly and ivy?
The Christmas sound-track might include “Silent Night” though it was anything but silent for the shepherds, treated as they were to a heavenly choir of angels praising God, surely one of the greatest concerts ever, yet only a select few even knew it was on!
‘Hark, the herald angels sing: “Glory to the new-born King”’. This carol gets it spot on, though Wesley originally wrote “Hark the heavenly welking rings” – sometimes version 2 is better!
Or that wonderful carol, ‘Ding dong merrily on high’, with its “Gloria” which goes on for ever until we have almost run out of breath. The words are less than 100 years old though they are made to sound medieval – the tune is from the 1500s originally.
Glory” is the soundtrack of the angels on Christmas night, whatever tune they were singing.
It is notable, that however good the song, however good the tune, the secular Christmas songs do not include glory to God in their words. This is not to say they are not good songs, nor even good songs to have at Christmas, but it is to note that the secular version of Christmas is very different.
There should be festivity and festivities need backing-tracks, and like others I like a good sing-along. But may our Christmas sound-track include joining the angels in singing “Glory to God”. And let us reflect again on what happened in that little town of Bethlehem, in whose dark streets shone the everlasting light: –
“We hear the Christmas angels,
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord, Emmanuel.”