I’ve heard the critique before. “A lot of the Christmas carols we sing are so… dark and seem even sad.” That, when set against the silliness of “Jingle Bells” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” is possibly a valid commentary.
The carols of Christmas have almost a minor key feeling to many of them. And others do not (“Joy to the World,” “The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”). But if we understand the context of Christmas, that makes sense.
A baby born in a cattle stall… a virgin teenage mother and a frightened young father who was NOT the biological father of the baby within his pregnant fiancée… a city and indeed a people who would reject Jesus’ coming… a king who slaughtered babies when he became aware of Christ’s birth… all lend themselves more to minor keys than to cheery, pop-laden music.
Add to this the reality that Jesus’ birth is significant PRECISELY because of His atoning death, and well, how would YOU think it should be sung? There is a darkness… spiritual and historical… that is the backdrop to the magnificent story of the coming of our Lord. “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light…” Isaiah prophesied 700 years before.
As a person who has walked through some months of grief after my wife’s death and now, going through my first Christmas since my mother’s death this summer, minor keys feel appropriate… even preferred.
I’m not anti-happy, Christmas music. Please don’t hear that. But sometimes what matches my soul is not the happy, sappy, holly jolly, Christmas music created by our culture. Forgive me if I don’t want to sing about Santa Claus coming to town.
But if you want to sing about real hope found in Jesus, friend, then count me in!
Prayer: Father, as we come closer to the day of Christmas celebration, we do so mindful that for some, the light has not yet dawned. May it be, our Lord, that this light comes to them in overwhelming splendor through Christ our eternal hope and King. And may it come soon. Through Jesus our Lord we pray, Amen.