It occurred to me that it may be possible to form at least three broad classifications based on Christmas musical preferences. In an effort to list potential groupings without bias as to which is superior, I will simply begin with the “wall-to-wall” Christmas music people.
These are the folks who radio stations have in mind when they begin a season of only Christmas music all of the time. This may be the same group of people that sings along quietly as they stroll through the aisles looking for ingredients for seasonal recipes.
Perhaps at the opposite end of the spectrum are those who complain loudly and often about the intolerant Christmas music interrupting their normally tolerant visits to the market. They may even sound like the famous Uncle Ebenezer, who said: “Every idiot that goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”
This brings me to a third classification of people who not only like Christmas music, with all things in moderation, but feel some Christmas music has value all year long. There are differences within the body of “Christmas music,” like the differences between songs and carols. Carols, according to Dictionary.com, have two definitions: “songs especially of joy and a Christmas song or hymn.” The same source defines “song” with six different potential definitions beginning with “a short metrical composition intended or adapted to singing”; ending with “an elaborate vocal signal produced by an animal.”
Even without coming to agreement on which of the six definitions is most appropriate, they may clarify some of the singing you have heard. Christmas classics like “Grandma got ran over by a reindeer” or “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” most likely won’t be around in 300 years like Isaac Watts “Joy to the World.” There may be any number of reasons for longevity but the most significant is in content. “Joy to the World” was written using partial quotes from Psalms 98 and Psalm 96 and with an understanding of Genesis chapter three, which recounts the fall of man, the consequences and the solution.
When the Lord God was describing the serpent’s future, He said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 NIV. The offspring was further described by Isaiah who wrote: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NIV.
The most significant take away from the study of the Old Testament is that human kind is not capable of repairing the breach between God and man. The rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament were not enough — a Savior is needed. Which leads me to the most significant lyrics in “Joy to the World.” The Savior was not coming to special places, but to people. “Let every heart prepare Him room.”
Paul writing to the churches of Corinth said: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” I Corinthians 6:19a NIV. As we look ahead into the often hectic season of Christmas, we should perhaps prioritize the idea of preparing room in our heart for Him.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.