Articles, activities for boomers & seniors
“There's a song in the air! There's a star in the sky!” At this time of year, there are plenty of holiday songs in the air — and on the air — and plenty of stars in the sky; many of them Moravian stars, in home windows and store windows, porches and pine trees. No other holiday season knows of more popular songs than Christmastime. There are a few Thanksgiving and harvest-time songs, and one New Year’s Eve song that few except Olde English aficionados understand, but Christmas songs tip the scales in popularity. They come in many styles, so let’s take a look at a few.
You've heard it said that “Christmas is for kids.” While not exactly true, there are songs that appeal to children, lyrically and musically. “All I Want for Christmas” is an upbeat song that features a kid who talks funny because he or she is missing two front teeth. As a senior, I can feel the kid's pain as well.
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” is a gentle way to bribe kids into being good by scaring them with a God-like figure who is watching their every move. Any alert child will realize that the song does not mention what will happen when he does come to town, so what's the point? “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” gives a slightly nicer picture of Claus, but a not-so-flattering image of the greedy kid. Note the last verse: “Johnny wants a pair of skates; Susy wants a dolly; Nellie wants a story book; She thinks dolls are folly; As for me, my little brain Isn’t very bright; Choose for me, old Santa Claus, What you think is right.” Pop music has seen its share of Christmas tunes, performed by such diverse artists as Canned Heat, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, and Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Canned Heat was a boogie / blues band that teamed up with the Chipmunks for "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late" in 1968, ten years after the Chipmunks released their version. The collaboration featured funny dialog between the groups as the Heat tried to teach the Chipmunks how to groove, boogie-style. The flip side of that single was Canned Heat's downer, “Christmas Blues,” featuring a heavy beat, searing blues guitar, and opening lyrics, “Well it's christmastime everybody, But it's raining in my heart." Not very jolly.
Elvis was a bit more mellow, but his “Blue Christmas” expressed the same ho-ho-ho-less emotions: “You'll be doing alright, With your Christmas of white, But I'll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas.”
Barbra Streisand's A Christmas Album is ranked as one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time. It mostly contains traditional songs, such as, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “White Christmas,” and “The Christmas Song
(Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).”
You may have noticed something (or someONE) missing from the songs mentioned above: the birthday boy! Amid all the festivities of the season, it is easy to overlook the “reason for the season”: Jesus Christ himself, who is the “Christ” in Christmas. Most of the earliest Christmas hymns focused on Jesus Christ, and the lyrics were mostly drawn from the biblical accounts of his birth. There are also many theologically-sound contemporary songs that herald the good news of Jesus's birth.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” contains many Old Testament names of Christ, beginning with “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us.”
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” describes how God became a man, veiled in virgin-born flesh.
“O Holy Night,” written while slavery was still legal, tells the story of our sinful condition, Christ's mission of compassion and salvation, love for all mankind, and the cessation of all oppression.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” (so apropos to the Valley) speaks of the lowly, quiet birth of the Savior who enters into the heart of every person who meekly will receive him.
A modern Christmas classic, first recorded in 1991, is “Mary, Did You Know?”, by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene. It addresses Mary, the mother of Jesus, asking if she comprehended the incomprehensible: the works, lordship, and deity of her baby boy.
If you celebrate Christmas, be sure to celebrate Jesus Christ himself. Raise your voice as a gift of song by singing biblical, gospel-focused lyrics that “Hail the Heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!”