No matter where you go, your ears have been filled with the beautiful melodies of Christ-centered hymns. “Silent Night” is pumped over the loud speakers of raucous crowds of bargain-seekers. The singers of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” are drowned out by drums, guitars, and orchestras. The melodies of “Away in a Manger” and “O Holy Night” are almost hard to recognize by affected and dynamic vocal gymnastics. What a glorious time of year.
Unfortunately, these are songs we don’t often hear anymore. Not because there is anything wrong with the songs themselves. Rather, the problem is with us.
Some of us were raised with a denial of Christmas time in general. Because we “speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent,” we admit there is no mention of Christmas as a commandment, therefore some deny any authority to celebrate this special day as a religious remembrance. While we remember the generosity of Santa and drink our fill of eggnog (non-alcoholic, of course), we remain determinatively silent on Jesus. We remember that “the day of death is better than the day of birth,” even when that birth is the incarnate miracle bestowed on a virgin (Eccl 7.1). We recognize the inconsistency of the details of the miracle birth story told in Matthew and Luke with the typical weather patterns of December and understand that even if we were going to celebrate the birth of Jesus, one day in spring would be more feasible.
Because of this denial of the religiosity of December 25, these songs are rejected in our worship service during this time of the year. Often, Christians will moan about these songs being used as performances instead of worship. Christians also struggle internally with the instrumental music being used in these performances or recordings. All of this conflict makes December a particularly hard time for Christians.
So the best option would be to use these great hymns at other times of the year, yet this rarely happens. Instead, they feel out of place and strange when used for worship at other times. So these songs remain unused, unsung, and under appreciated.
There is another option. Instead of rejecting these songs, let’s appreciate them. I believe this would have been Paul’s perspective based on his words in Philippians 1.
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” (Phil 1.15-18).
There were people proclaiming Christ from ill will, from envy, from rivalry. There were some who proclaimed Christ without an understanding of who He really was. There were some who were talking about Christ, maybe even singing about Him, without a true knowledge of Him. Yet, Christ was proclaimed. His story was told. His truth was delivered. His name was worshipped. For this, Paul praised and rejoiced.
Maybe, the right thing is for us to do the same. In our stores, on our radios, and nearly everywhere else we go, Christ is being proclaimed this month. Instead of finding fault, let’s rejoice. Let’s not let the world’s distorted religious remembrance hinder our own constant and daily focus on Jesus. Rather, let’s teach people the rest of the story about Jesus, including His death, His resurrection, His redemption, and His salvation through our death and resurrection in baptism.