“I did think I saw heaven open, and saw the very face of God”. – George Fredric Handel, spoken in tears as he finished composing the “Hallelujah” chorus of Messiah.
It’s not official until you hear it.
You may have been watching TV and the “Nutcracker” theme came on during a commercial. Or Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” popped up in your playlist.
When holiday music begins saturating the airwaves, we know the Christmas season is upon us.
Of course, for those of us in the creative arts, especially musicians, you have probably been hearing these songs in rehearsals for months.
Yes, it can get a little wearisome performing the same songs year after year. After all, how many arrangements can there be of “Holly Jolly Christmas”? (Answer: too many.) However, we can never forget the reason why music is so relevant to the celebration of Christ’s birth.
While most of the world was unaware of the King of Kings being born in a stable, the heavens were rejoicing. The famous appearance of the angels to the shepherds was accompanied by a heavenly concert. That precedent has continued to this day. Any time Jesus is mentioned, there is a good chance someone is singing.
Of course, many famous Christmas songs are not about the birth of Jesus. Santa Claus, Rudolph, and Frosty get just as much attention as the Christ Child in December. We hear the constant debate over whether the Christmas season has been over-commercialized, and some question the holiday’s legitimacy as a religious celebration. That doesn’t negate the fact that without music, our celebrations would not be complete. Christmas is one of the only celebrations in which people from varied cultures embrace a shared repertoire of music. That’s not by accident. In a small way, our collective love of holiday music reinforces the greater purpose that this season represents – our common need as human beings to connect with God and with each other. This is the ideal that we as artists are privileged to present each time we perform the classic songs.
Let’s be honest. No matter what your feelings are about Christmas, we can agree that there is no other time that the Christian message is presented so clearly, with little to no pushback from the broader culture. You won’t hear the words “Christ the Savior” in your local Target at any other time of the year. You won’t be invited to sing about a holy infant at a public, non-church related concert in the middle of July.
It’s an opportunity every year to share a timeless message in a short period of time.
As we perform, we remind people, over and over again, that there’s a good reason to sing. And that it’s hard to hate someone that is singing the same song.
So let’s enjoy and embrace the opportunity to help people rejoice, reflect, and find peace through music in each holiday season, even if that means enduring a bit of repetition. Most importantly, we should remember that every time we perform in honor of the Christmas season, we echo the sentiments of the angels on that first evening of His earthly existence:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
[This encore post was originally published in Dec. 2015. It was updated and edited for re-publication.]