Christmas! For many it is the most wonderful time of the year. Such a festive time to spend with family and be generous with gifts to each other. Of course, the biggest reason for the season is the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. One of my favorite parts of this blessed season is the singing of Christmas carols. There is just something so simple and beautiful about these tunes that tell the story of Jesus’ birth.
When I started doing some research about the history of Christmas carols, I was surprised to find that they date all the way back to 4th century Rome. It is so amazing to see how God uses His people all throughout history to tell His story! Some of the carols we still sing today (O Come All Ye Faithful, Good King Wenceslas, Christ was Born on Christmas Day, and others) were published in a book written in the late 16th century. Carols started becoming much more popular during the Reformation partially because Luther himself authored many hymns and placed a strong emphasis on congregational singing.
The fact that Christmas carols have stood the test of time for many centuries is simply amazing! What is even more amazing is that the church is not the only group of people still singing these songs during the holiday season. Starting in the beginning of November, you can tune in to any radio station and hear many of the same Christmas carols telling the story of our Savior’s birth. That is simply fascinating to me!
We live in such a divided world, and yet many of us hear these simple carols and a sense of overwhelming nostalgia overtakes us. We remember the snow, the Christmas trees, time with family, baking cookies; all of the beautiful times we associate with the holidays. But, more importantly, these carols have been passed down with lyrics that tell about the true reason for the season. When we hear these songs on secular radio stations or movies, the lyrics are not typically altered. How crazy is that? The world comes together one time a year and willingly sings about the Bible! I know many people are not thinking about the lyrics, but I believe there are some that will hear these carols in a new way that shows them the truth about Christ.
I want to leave you with the lyrics to my absolute favorite Christmas carol. O Come O Come Emmanuel has been one of my favorites for a long time. I love the sober and beautiful melody that causes us to really reflect on the lyrics. I love that the verses use minor chords to emulate darkness, but the chorus loudly rejoices with major chords that represent light. Even in this dark world, this holiday season I encourage you to remember that the darkness will never overcome the Light of the world. Rejoice!
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go
O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind
Bid envy strife and quarrels cease
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace