I admit, I’m not one who loves to listen to a month’s worth of Christmas music on the radio. In fact, I flip the channel as soon as I hear the Chipmunks singing their high-pitched, nasal notes, and I hope DJs all across America misplace the track of dogs barking their way through Jingle Bells. Still, there’s something beautiful about those few special holiday hymns that deliver deep emotions.
I’ve always been a big John Lennon fan, so I can’t help but stop and listen when I hear his duet with Yoko Ono, Happy Christmas. I’m a hippie at heart, so the children’s chorus in the background singing, “War is over, if you want it” gets me every time. In a country where Christmas for many means little more than new iPhones, big screens, and Black Friday stampedes, I’m glad John Lennon’s lyrics still remind us to think about bigger things than what we can add to our credit cards. After all, Jesus was called the Prince of Peace, and he commanded us to love one another. Check out this video, but be warned — many of the images are very difficult to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN4Uu0OlmTgbout
Maybe it’s not technically a holiday song, but I love My Favorite Things. The lyrics are sentimental, and they remind us to count our blessings and to celebrate the simple things. “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things” Add to it, Julie Andrews’ amazing voice, and what’s not to love? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33o32C0ogVM
As for hymns, I’ve always loved O Holy Night. When I hear it performed live, I cry every time. Here’s the third stanza from the original lyrics, a verse rarely performed in today’s modern versions of the song, but it’s my favorite:
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
I especially love to hear this song performed by a choir. There’s something powerful about a collection of voices combined to singing, “Fall to your knees. Hear the angels’ voices.” My favorite video is this impromptu, modern take by the Dublin Gospel Choir. You can feel the emotion in the room, and I love the way others gather at the door to listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxCGDq2tODM
I also love Silent Night. Even the title, silent night, evokes a calm and peaceful feeling. It’s my hope, each Christmas and throughout the year, that people everywhere can know how it feels when “all is calm, all is bright,” and that everyone can “sleep in (heavenly) peace.” I’ll end with a video from Saturday Night Live, when they opened their live show with a children’s choir singing this in remembrance of the twenty children who were killed at Sandy Creek this month, just before they reminded us it’s okay to laugh again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTbhVlHuONo