December 2011

‘And so, this is Christmas, and what have you done?’

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la…..’
‘Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?’
Or is that,
‘Last Christmas I gave you my heart. Next year to save me from tears, I’ll give it to somebody special….’

It’s that time of year when the radio plays, so called, Seasonal Music. It means that for over a month, depending on the station you listen to, we have songs from Christmas’s past played with annoying frequency.

There is some good Christmas music, but – at the danger of sounding like the grumpy old man I’m increasingly becoming – most of what is played on the popular stations is, in my humble opinion, pretty woeful. It’s yet another event to look forward to during the busy festive season:- frequently changing the radio station while driving in the car, as I try to avoid another naff song that just happened to be Christmas number one in 1983 or ’92 or whatever.

It’s interesting to note however that my intolerance of Seasonal Music, doesn’t stretch to Christmas Carols. Probably due to my ‘job’, I attend more than the average number of carol concerts, carol sing-a-longs and carol services. And though I have my favourites and not so favourites (and if I’m honest, one or two that I could happily never sing again), I really look forward to singing lustily and mostly in tune to the many traditional and modern Christmas Carols.

There are probably a few reasons why singing carols is a highlight of my year.

Firstly, it’s an activity that I can do in private, but it actually works better in a group, the larger the better. There is something about joining together and singing together that makes it really special.

Secondly, I know most of the words. Some of the music is an organists or musicians nightmare, but singing the familiar words along with everyone else, more or less from memory (at least the first verse!) is really a joy to me.

Lastly, most of the words have real meaning. I know that some carols have archaic words or turns of phase that are difficult to understand at times and some carols are overly sentimental, or even shallow. But the vast majority of carols centre on one of the pivotal events in human history. Each time I sing a Christmas Carol I am reminding myself and anyone else who will listen, that God broke into mundane life and our lives can never be the same again.

So whether you sing in tune or out, whether you can recite every carol in the hymn book from memory or not, whether you dread the Christmas season or embrace it with gusto, Rejoice! For as the angels sang, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all on whom his favour rests.’

December 2011