Still thinking about Christmas

Still thinking. In 2007, I thought about the physical birth of Jesus and what Christmas had meant to me, as a child. In 2008, I thought about the irony that Christmas often distracted us from time with God. In 2009, I thought about God with us, in flesh and blood, as the reason for our celebrations. In 2010 at this time, I was lying on a deckchair and reading books at a seaside resort, and in 2011 I was in the clouds, on a plane decorated with boughs of mistletoe, being served a not-so-delicious slab of turkey with cranberry sauce. Perhaps being away was a good break from the usual festivities, and an opportunity to see Christmas afresh.

Still pondering on many questions - what does Christmas mean to us and others, should we celebrate it, if so how do we go about it, what greetings and gifts do I give, to sing or not to sing various carols, to take on or not to take on traditions associated with the festival, how about Santa or the pretty sparkly decorations? And, what do I say about these things to my little sister?

Reflections on Christmas carols

I was listening to my younger cousin's song which he rearranged, with a strange mix of lyrics talking about Santa (When Christmas Comes to Town) and Jesus (Silent Night). When he told me about it earlier in the holidays, I was wondering if I should say something (I didn't).

On a side note, I'm quite impressed with his covers and original compositions, with little prior knowledge of music theory, with not having his own instruments to play for many of those years, with working out notes, chords and even the instruments by himself. He picked up guitar and piano during his senior high school years, to the dismay of the family (how unthinkable it is, especially in China, to pursue anything that will affect your academic performance on the university entrance exams).

During carolling, I was again thinking about popular Christmas songs. I sing them so many times that I start to tune out on the lyrics, that I begin to have preferences based on melody rather than meaning. For example, take verse one of Joy to the World:
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,

And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

What is there to be joyful about the Lord's coming if you don't believe in it? With joy being in the salvation that Christ brings, what joy is there, if we do not first recognise our sin and God's wrath, hence the need for a saviour? How can we sing about preparing our hearts to receive Jesus as our king, then be filled with the busyness of Christmas and all it entails in modern society, rather than Christ alone and above all? If indeed we are singing with heaven and nature, do our thoughts, words and actions also reflect a consistent attitude of thanksgiving and praise towards God?

I think if I were the writer of such hymns, I would be disgusted to see how they are often sang without meditation on the message, without reverence towards God; or how they are played alongside Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls as generic expressions of merriment, rather than proclaiming a joy which comes from knowing Christ (rejoice in the Lord always - Philippians 4:4).

“Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice." - Ezekiel 33:32

The people in Ezekiel's days gathered together and received God's words eagerly through him; however, they treated the message lightly, nothing more than just a nice song. Isn't it nice that in this season, many many people are listening to and singing songs that celebrate Jesus' birth? Yes, but only if we hear and heed the significance of his life on Earth, and what that means for our lives!



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