Friday, December 6, 2013

4 Pros and Cons of (religious) Christmas Music

4 Pros:

1. We are reminded of the wonder of the incarnation.

"Jesus to Thee be all glory given,
Word of the Father,
Now in Flesh appearing."

2. We are reminded that the incarnation fulfills biblical prophecy.

"Lo, how a rose e're blooming,
from tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
as those of old hath sung."

3. We are reminded that Christianity is a dramatic story.

"While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds;
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind."

4. We are reminded of the historical basis of Christianity. This one is obvious, but important. The nature of religious Christmas songs presents historical events.

4 Cons:

1. Religious Christmas music smacks of speculation.

"The cattle are lowing,
the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus,
no crying he makes."

2. Religious Christmas music often gets the story wrong.

"We three kings of orient are..."

We don't know if there were three kings. Also, the wise men weren't there the night Jesus was born.

3. Religious Christmas music can be dreadfully sappy.

"Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long awaited Holy Stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home."      
4. Religious Christmas music tends toward emotionalism.

"Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace."

"I have traveled many moonless nights,
Cold and weary with a babe inside,
And i wonder what I've done.
Holy father you have come,
And chosen me now to carry your son."


  1. The third pro and the first con are somewhat in conflict, aren't they? Speculation is part of how we understand the emotional impact of redemptive history - for example how Jacob wrestled with the living God at Peniel (the details are pretty scarce; none of them tell us directly what Jacob was thinking, or why it happened, but his words, the sun rising on him as he limped past Penuel, and the significance of the context seem to point to powerful emotions), or how God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the promised son whom he loved. You can't have a dramatic story without thinking about what is going on in between the lines. It wasn't until I considered (began to speculate about?) what Jacob might have been feeling and why it might have happened that I started to see the dramatic side of the Bible. And it's incredible. It makes the trailers for epic movies seem cheap.

    I know that speculation can be iffy, and sometimes it's downright dangerous, but to make sense of the Bible and the world in terms of redemptive history does require some imagination and emotion.

  2. I see your point in #4, but sometimes there's a fine line between emotionalism and waxing poetic. Jesus soiled his swaddling clothes, but I'm not sure I'd include that line in a poetic rendering of the scene!