It’s pervasive. Whatever our faith, whatever our musical preferences, at this time of year we are all subjected to an unending deluge of “Holiday” music. We either love it or hate it, but it’s awfully hard to escape it.
As I was standing in line at the market recently, waiting to check out and listening to yet another version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, I started to consider: what if most people learned their facts about Christmas from the lyrics of popular Christmas music?
Just think of how they’d describe the first Christmas. It all took place in a little town called Bethelem, in the middle of the night, in winter….
First, they’d imagine angels flying all over the neighborhood, playing golden harps and singing a variety of songs with strange lyrics such as “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” In a nearby barn, a little boy is banging out a different rhythm on a drum, with an assortment of animals, including an ox and lamb, keeping time with him. Next to the lamb, some dogs are barking out jingle bells, which sets the cattle off, and their mooing finally wakes a sleeping baby, who is lying in a manger full of hay. It’s ok, though, because his mother, Mary, picks him up and sets him on her lap, so he doesn’t cry. Rather, in spite of the din, he goes back to sleep.
Eerie, radiant beams emanating from the baby’s face act as a beacon for some scruffy shepherds who are wandering in from the hills. Meanwhile, three kings arrive on camels, ranting about some large star having a tail like a kite, and bearing some pretty odd gifts. The gold will buy a lot of diapers, but what will the baby use the frankincense and myrrh for? It probably doesn’t matter, because someone called the Grinch is going to steal them anyway.
Jeanette Isabella is out running around Bethlehem with a torch, waking up the townspeople to tell them that she saw three ships come sailing in. They get annoyed at the interruption and tell her to go tell it on the mountain instead. She sees yet more angels out in the countryside, singing so loudly that the music echoes off the terrain.
Meanwhile, Santa is out in his sleigh circling the globe, with Rudolph leading the team of flying reindeer. Too bad he didn’t see Grandma crossing the street in the fog. Santa is carrying a bag containing an assortment of gifts, including a plane that loops the loop, a hula hoop, two front teeth, and a partridge in a pear tree. He is also the likely source of the magic hat that wakes up a snowman named Frosty.
With all this activity, it’s a wonder that anyone can sleep. Since their socks have been hung up by the fireplace, the kids have cold feet and it’s no surprise that they have scary dreams about sugar plums and nutcrackers. Seeing a strange man slide down the chimney, wander over to the mistletoe, and kiss their mother probably contributes to the nightmares.
It’s a good thing that Christmas only comes once a year… and what’s it got to do with God, anyway?
What are your favorite Christmas songs? Why? Which ones drive you crazy and deserve to be relegated to the trash heap of holiday music?