LETíS SING SOME CHRISTMAS CAROLS!
(Article for the December 19, 2012 issue of The Seward County Independent)
By The Rev. Dr. Daniel K. Schroeder, Pastor of Mighty Fortress Ev. Lutheran Church
At Christmas time, there are usually a variety of different Christmas gatherings. Frequently when people get together, someone will say: "Hey! Let's sing some Christmas Carols! What shall we sing?"
Then somebody suggests, "Let's sing Jingle Bells!" Others agree that this is a good idea, and so everybody begins singing: "Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh, o'er the fields we go, laughing all the way...."
What would you think if somebody had suggested singing "In the Good Old Summertime," or "Hot Town, Summer in the City?" You probably would have thought that their suggestion was completely inappropriate, or perhaps they were out of their mind. What do these songs have to do with Christmas?
Just think about it for a minute. People tend to associate songs like "Jingle Bells," "Winter Wonderland," "Frosty the Snowman," or "Let it Snow" with Christmas. But if you look at the words, these songs have absolutely NOTHING to do with Christmas, religious or secular.
Of course there isn't anything wrong with these songs. But they're seasonal songs about winter, just like "In the Good Old Summertime" is a seasonal song about summer.
I must confess that I have always associated Christmas with winter; that is until I moved to Australia. During my 5 1/2 years there, my Christmas celebrations were quite different than what I had ever experienced in the USA. Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, December 21st is the Summer Solstice. So on Christmas, it's hot outside!
We had a lot of the familiar things in Australia, such as Christmas trees, lights, decorations, and presents. But Australian families would get together for outdoor barbecues and activities. At church, we would have an evening outdoor "Carols by Candlelight" service, where we would sing all of the traditional Christmas Carols, like "Joy to the World," "Silent Night," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," etc. Even though the celebration activities were different, they were still every bit as meaningful. And if you had suggested to an Australian that "Frosty the Snowman" is a Christmas Carol, it would have been just as inappropriate as if somebody had suggested to you that "In the Good Old Summertime" is a Christmas Carol. Seasonal songs are NOT Christmas Carols.
Throughout the world, many things are overshadowing the meaning of Christmas. We often lament the over-commercialization of the season. We experience attitudes of selfishness and greed. And the winter season is often given more prominence than the reason. As a result, the babe in the manger gets shoved further and further into the corner, almost unnoticed.
It is the purpose of the Christian Church to bring things back to reality. God sent Jesus to this earth, born of a Virgin, born in Bethlehem's manger, becoming true man as well as true God to be our Saviour through faith alone. Jesus came to save us from our sins, and to reconcile us to God. Indeed, Jesus is the "reason for the season," and not a fresh blanket of snow or a huge pile of presents.
This year, when somebody wants to sing a Christmas Carol, suggest singing "Away in a Manger," or "O Come All Ye Faithful," or something that will echo the spirit of the Angels' song: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men."