By Carrie Brown McWhorter
Content Editor, The Alabama Baptist
With Thanksgiving behind us, the attack of the earworms has begun. We’ve all been afflicted. You hear a song or just think of one, and the lyrics play over and over in your head.
For me, the cheery strains of “Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderful Christmas time!” or “All I want for Christmas is you!” are the worst offenders. It’s as if suddenly my brain’s mute button has become unresponsive.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of Christmas music. Unfortunately, it’s usually my least favorite songs that somehow find their way onto on my internal playlist.
Out of touch
And the more Christmases I celebrate, the more I feel secular Christmas songs are out of touch with reality.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Is it? Layoffs and high prices have hit hard this year even as many are still recuperating financially from pandemic-related shutdowns. Many of us are looking at our bank accounts and bills wondering how they’re ever going to balance, and there’s not much hope for the new year.
“Please come home for Christmas.”
If only they could. Many families will be geographically separated during the holidays. Many more are separated by death. As the mother of two college students, my heart especially goes out to the families of those killed in the recent shooting at the University of Virginia. If only their children could come home for Christmas.
Far from fiction
Our lives are far from the idealized Christmases portrayed by movies, and secular Christmas songs speak only superficially to the needs and longings of our hearts.
Christmas hymns penetrate deeper, which is why we need to sing them over and over during this season and let the words once again settle into our souls.
The lyrics of Christmas carols are so much more than earworms — they are opportunities to impress truth into the deepest recesses of our beings.
I was reminded of this as I listened to Robert Smith Jr. preach Nov. 15 during the evening session of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. Smith, professor of Christian preaching and Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, is well known for weaving theologically rich hymn lyrics into his theologically deep sermons. It’s a technique that engages the listener on multiple levels.
Research tells us that when we listen to a song, we are doing much more than hearing notes and repeating words. Music connects to our emotions — the emotions conveyed in the song and the emotions connected to memories we have of the song. It’s one possible reason people with dementia can remember song lyrics long after they’ve forgotten almost everything else.
Hope and promise
So sing the familiar Christmas carols this year! To paraphrase Deuteronomy 11:18–19, sing them with your children and your grandchildren. Sing them at church, at home, in the car, even in the store if you want.
Let the truth of the words remind you anew of the hope and promise of Christmas.
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come!”
“Hark! The herald angels sing, “‘Glory to the newborn King!’”
“Go, tell it on the mountain! Over the hills and ev’rywhere!”
“Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!”
“He rules the world with truth and grace!”
“Now ye need not fear the grave. Jesus Christ was born to save. Calls you one and calls you all to gain His everlasting hall.”
“Come and worship, come and worship! Worship Christ, the newborn King!”