There is nothing that says Christmas like the songs of the season. I went to the Chorus of Westerly’s Christmas Pops last week. It was great. I especially liked their rendition of “O, Holy Night.” That song touches the heart. It brings us right into the Christmas story and places us at the manger with the Christ child.
At the Christmas Cantata hosted by the Seventh Day Baptist Church the weekend before, they shared the same story. In both word and song, it brought home the reason why we celebrate Christ’s birth. The message pointed to God’s love and his plan to redeem the world through his only begotten son.
As a teenager I’d go to St. Andrews, the Roman Catholic Church in Colchester, for the Christmas Eve midnight Mass. There is something special about singing “Silent Night” as Christmas morning arrives. One year we came out and were greeted by snowflakes. Talk about a magical moment! I could almost hear the angels’ voices.
From Thanksgiving Day on, I listen to WBMW 106.5 on the radio. They continually play Christmas music. The songs fuel my Christmas enthusiasm. There is a scene in the movie “Elf” that speaks of Santa’s sleigh being powered by the Christmas spirit. We watch as the crowd’s singing moves the needle and powers up the sleigh.
I think that’s why I struggled to get into the spirit last year. With COVID, most of the large musical gatherings were canceled. It was strongly suggested that we not have either choral or congregational singing at worship. A colleague suggested that we could read the lyrics instead of singing them in church. It just wasn’t the same.
That’s when my good friend, Rev. Josh McClure, gave me a bit of advice. He said, “Focus on the message!” It’s what makes the music so special. It tells the story. In doing so, it brings out the magic. Christmas reminds us that in a dark and sinful world, where disappointment comes and dreams are shattered, God is with us.
On that first Christmas morning that little town of Bethelhem became the place where God broke through the heavens and came to rest away in a manger, with no crib for a bed. The angels declared, “Joy to the world for the Lord is come.” They sang “Gloria in excelsis deo!” The shepherds joined them and sang out in jubilee!
It struck me that the Christmas story itself is music to our ears. Maybe in the midst of the continuing coronavirus pandemic, it is the antidote for fear and the tonic for hope. It is the good news of great joy for all the people and a reminder that God is still in control. So go ahead and sing it.
Let’s go tell it on the mountain, on the seashore and in our towns and cities. There’s a thrill of hope for the weary soul. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Let’s sing out that Jesus Christ our savior was born! And may the light of God’s love shine in our hearts again.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.