The entire month of December seems to have become a blitz of buying, wrapping, eating and decorating.
However, beneath all the material trappings of Christmas, there is a soundtrack being played. Actually, there is a variety of them—in stores, on the radio, at home and in the car, on iPods and TV specials.
What would Christmas be like without music?
Back in the day before radio stations played 24-hour-a-day holiday tunes, I would get so excited when I heard the first song of the season.
As I recall, you rarely heard a Christmas song before Thanksgiving, and in the days following, the songs would gradually become more frequent. That made them more exciting and tantalizing, at least in my young mind.
As Christmas Day drew near, of course, we’d be singing them in school and church programs and plays.
I think Christmas Eve and Christmas morning were the only time we heard continuous holiday tunes, and by Christmas afternoon, the radio station was beginning to play everyday songs again, much to my disappointment.
Nowadays, it’s like, “thank goodness that’s over!” Still, who can imagine Christmas without children singing, ‘Here comes Santa Clause,’ ‘Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer’ or ‘Silent Night’?
I googled the top ten Christmas songs of all time and found some interesting results.
For one thing, the lists were quite different, according to who conducted the poll. Rolling Stone Magazine’s reader’s poll featured some songs I’d never heard of.
I was in more familiar territory when I glanced over the top ten pop Christmas songs, which are mostly classics performed by pop artists. ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire),’ ‘White Christmas’ and ‘O Holy Night’ are familiar favorites.
I looked over three or four polls, but I found one song that was consistently at or near the top of all of them. (It didn’t, however, make the country charts.)
At first I didn’t recognize it by its title, ‘Happy X-mas (War is Over), performed by John Lennon and written by he and his wife, but when I played the YouTube link, I immediately recognized the song as one I hear on the Mixmas radio station frequently.
This link featured video filled with disturbing images of war and suffering: Mothers and fathers carrying dead babies wrapped in bloody blankets, parents wailing with grief, hungry hollow-eyed children with swollen bellies.
Not your iconic Christmas images for sure.
Why would anyone want to do that? Nobody wants to see such things around Christmas.
We’d rather look at jolly ol’ St. Nick in his fine red suit with pristine white fur. We’d rather behold pastoral snow scenes and pictures of children under trees tearing paper from their coveted presents.
Those images were upsetting and I’m having a hard time shaking them from my mind.
But those images, shocking and disturbing as they are, are reality for many people around the world, even for some in America.
John Lennon was a controversial figure, scorned by some and revered by others for his anti-war views. Many consider him nothing short of a “heathen” because of his lifestyle.
But it seems to me that Lennon had a conscience, an awareness of the darkness in the world and a subsequent desire for the world to be at peace.
For many of us, images of violence and need such as those in the video don’t exist in our personal worlds, no matter what troubles we face. I think of all our little grandson has suffered, but at least he was in a warm and dry hospital surrounded by love with medicines to ease his pain.
Not everyone has that luxury.
We see suffering on the news and try to block it from our minds. There are disadvantages to doing so. To think because such horror hasn’t happened to us that it doesn’t affect us makes us indifferent and often uncaring.
The angels summed up the heart of the Christmas message with these words when they announced Christ’s birth: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”
Or, Christ left a mighty fine place to bring light and life to a grim world full of suffering.
Could it be that His purpose for us is to step out of our comfort zone on occasion and alleviate some suffering ourselves? Christmas time provides us plenty of opportunities to do that.
As another year winds down, I’m considering these words from ‘Happy X-mas, (War is Over).’
“So this is Christmas and what have you done,
Another year over, a new one just begun.And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun,
The near and the dear ones, the old and the young.
A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year
. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fears.
And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong,
The rich and the poor ones, the road is so long.”
I’m not putting John Lennon on a pedestal, but these simple words reflect a sensitivity to the suffering in the world that can be lost if all we sing is ‘The Christmas Song.’