I love so many aspects of the Christmas season: the decorations, the food, time with family and the music, but in a challenging season of life, I find my enthusiasm a bit dampened.
Like dark chocolate, Christmas can have a bittersweet flavor. As we get older, we remember past celebrations with loved ones who are no longer with us. Or maybe your Christmas present is haunted by anxiety and stress. Your Christmas future could contain looming obstacles and uncertainty.
Christmas often comes loaded with expectations. As a kid, so much of my focus was on the gifts. If I received something great, my mood soared. In my adult years, I find that I enjoy the season more if I spend special times with the ones I love.
The story of Jesus’ birth is part of the package that includes the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We rejoice over the birth, grieve His death (along with our sins He carried on the cross) and gratefully accept the grace gift of eternal life.
The hymns of Christmas reflect the richness of the story of Jesus. I came across this podcast on myfaithradio.com that gives the stories behind many popular carols.
“I Wonder as I Wander” has long been a favorite, but I misunderstood one of the words in the chorus. “I wonder as I wander out under the sky, how Jesus my Savior did come for to die, for poor, ornery people like you and like I. I wonder as I wander out under the sky.”
I always thought the words were poor lonely, and not poor ornery. But ornery rings so true to me because that’s what I am! Sometimes I’m lonely, too, but Jesus died for us while we were ornery, right (Romans 5:8)?
The podcast told me that the carol came out of Appalachia in the 1930s. The writer paid a poor young girl from a family of traveling evangelists to sing it over and over again while he wrote down the words.
Some Christmas hymns are thoughtful and melancholy like that one or “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” or they can be joyful celebrations, “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Then there are the peaceful, reverent songs like “Silent Night” and “The First Noel.”
Many carols convey the genuine good news of Jesus in all its bittersweet, rich wonder.
What are your favorite carols?