Do you recall the scene from “The Sound of Music” when Captain Von Trapp is transformed from a tyrannical, overbearing father to a loving one?
Von Trapp, a widower and military man, is raising seven children with an iron fist until Maria, an aspiring nun from the local abbey brings music back into their home. With one song—“The Sound of Music”—his life is changed, and his joy is restored.
Christmas songs can have a similar effect. From the moment Mary discovered she was with Child, to the night on which Christ was born, to today, music and song have featured prominently in the celebration of Christmas. If you are like me, you especially relish the opportunity to participate in church services around this time of year that are filled with Christmas hymns—classics like “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
Still today, thousands go Christmas caroling, although it is a dying art. Just what is it about Christmas that makes us sing?
First, it is important to remember that Christianity is a singing faith. Throughout the Bible, the people of God have sung about their Maker and Redeemer. Indeed, many of the most beautiful expressions of faith in the Scriptures are demonstrated in song. Think no further than the shepherd boy David, who would become Israel’s great psalmist and king.
Music and song, secondly, express truth and emotion that mere thoughts or spoken words cannot. The life of Christ is the greatest story ever told, and Christmas is the story of the greatest gift given. It should come as no surprise that the Christ Child has given inspiration to countless pieces of music through the years and inspires new ones each year. Some of the greatest music and art in history, in fact, is entirely about Christmas.
My personal favorite Christmas carol is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” This masterpiece by Charles Wesley, who composed some 6,000 hymns, is full of deep theological truth. Consider these lines: “Christ by highest heav’n adored. Christ the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold Him come Offspring of a Virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. Hark! The herald angels sing ‘Glory to the newborn King!’”
Music also provides a great way to communicate a story or idea in a memorable way. Millions of children in America, maybe ones who will not hear the name Jesus at other times of the year, will sing of His wonderful Name.
Finally, Christmas music is an excellent way to share the Gospel with adults. When is the last time you went Christmas caroling? Whether or not you can carry a tune in a bucket, you can get a group together to sing the name of Jesus to your neighbors or maybe those in your church who are homebound. The music could be more of a blessing than you know.
Years ago, we gathered a group of family friends to go caroling and made sure to visit the house of an elderly man we believed to be lost. His wife greeted us at the door and said the man was not feeling well and could not come to the door. We sang as loudly and cheerfully as we could, in hopes he would hear.
We found out the next day, the man passed away during the night. It leaves us to wonder if the man, hearing the simple Christmas carols, responded to the Gospel and passed from death to life.
He may even now be in Heaven, singing along with all the saints departed and angels—maybe even the very angels that, on the night of Christ’s birth, sang the first noel in Luke 2: “Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest Heaven, and peace on Earth to people He favors!’”
Jesus alone is worthy of our praise, at Christmastime, and every day! That’s why we can always sing we now at Christmas.