Last week, I had the opportunity to see the play, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. In the course of the play, Ebenezer Scrooge is forced to come to terms with his life through visits from the spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet-to-Come. Themes of compassion, generosity, transformation, and redemption are found throughout the short novel. Dickens called his work A Christmas Carol because he wanted the story to be shared, just as singing Christmas carols deepens our faith and brings people together.
As I long for the coming of the Christ child during Advent, I don’t shop, bake, or party. I sing. I sing of waiting, peace, grace, humility, forgiveness, and faith. And, in singing, I hear the voice of the One who says, “Pay attention, Laurie. I am still at work. I am coming. You will see me in the poor, the lonely, the outcasts, the throw-aways, the newborn babies, the immigrants, the aged, and the victims of human trafficking. Listen to my voice and keep on singing.”
With each passing year, the Christmas carols become more meaningful. These are just some of the songs of Christmas that get to me, the carols that cause me to weep in contrition, anticipation, anguish, and joy, and inspire me to make a difference in the world.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
This hymn marks the beginning of Advent for me. I did not grow up in a liturgical church, but when I studied at a Lutheran college, I learned to love liturgy. I have so many memories of processing into the sanctuary singing this hauntingly beautiful hymn. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
O Come O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here, until the son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice. Immanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.
“Away in a Manger”
It’s hard for me not to weep as my grandchildren sit next to me in church on Christmas Eve and we sing together.
Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care. And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
Four years ago, bone-weary from an intense fall season in the local church, I just about lost it on Christmas Eve while singing this stanza. May each one of you pause beside the weary road during Advent to hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way, with painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours, come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!
“I Wonder as I Wander”
I spend my life wandering around the United Methodist connection and wondering at the amazing love of Jesus that inspires millions of Christ-followers to make a difference in every corner of our world.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky, How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor orn’ry people like you and like I, I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
“What Child is This”
The tune for which this text was probably written, Greensleeves, is one of the most beloved melodies of the Christmas season.
What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping.
This, this is Christ the King whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste, to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.
Jesus, love’s pure light, is the dawn of redeeming grace and the hope of the world.
Silent night, holy night! Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
“In the Bleak Midwinter”
Jesus doesn’t care how much we spend on Christmas presents. What is most important is offering our very self to the Christ child.
What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what can I give him: give my heart.
How can we ensure that Christmas comes for everyone? Whom are you missing?
Star Child, earth child, go between of God,
Love Child, Christ child, heaven’s lightning rod.
This year, this year, let the day arrive
When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.
“Joseph, Dearest, Joseph Mine”
I yearn for the day when every child is cradled safely in their parents’ arms.
Joseph dearest, Joseph mine, help me cradle the child divine;
God reward thee and all that’s thine in paradise, so prays the mother Mary.
He came among us at Christmastime, at Christmastime, in Bethlehem;
let us bring him from far and wide, Love’s diadem:
Jesus, Jesus, lo, he comes, and loves, and saves, and frees us!
“O Holy Night”
When will we truly learn how to love one another?
Truly he taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise his holy name.
“Joy to the World”
Is there any more joyful and inspiring Christmas carol than this?
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love.
What are the Christmas carols that get to you? What are the Christmas songs that bring tears to your eyes and cause you to stop in your tracks and thank God for the gift of the baby Jesus, our Lord and Savior? May you wonder as you wander out under the sky. Merry Christmas and God bless us every one!
The next Leading from the Heart will be on Monday, January 7.