Upon becoming a follower of Jesus after living for twenty-six years in darkness, I saw a great light, and it revealed many utterly surprising things to me during the next few months, as the process of transformation ensued. I had become a follower – by the saving grace of God, let me make clear – in the heat of the summer. By the time the leaves were turning brown and the weather was cooling in Michigan, where I lived at the time, I had been a recipient of so many astonishing flashes of insight about life (also not apart from the grace of God) that I would have been most foolish not to recognize what I was being taught: how darkened one’s understanding about all things could become in a life lived without the light of Christ.
Then came the week following Thanksgiving and it happened again. The general “it,” here, being another reminder of a cryptic statement from Jesus: if the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Note: Jesus is not asking a question but exclaiming a fact). The specific “it” being the sudden gasp escaping from my lips when I heard Christmas music playing on my car radio one evening.
Of course I’d heard these songs before, in my dark days, and countless times, on the radio, at home while growing up, at every mass during Christmastime. Though old, they were enjoyable to listen to; though memorable, they were soon forgotten, even the ones whose lyrics I could recite by heart. It was merely seasonal music to me. It comes and it goes.
Then, as Thanksgiving weekend yielded to festive sights and deep snows of December, Christmas music suddenly became alive to me in the light of life. Variations on a theme – a world being offered peace and its peoples good will – their profound meaning hit me with unforgettable force. Never had I ever experienced that during any of the countless times I had heard these songs in the past, not even in church.
Now I don’t mean songs such as Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), or any of that ilk. I mean sacred songs, Christmas carols of themes of Christ’s birth.
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” Indeed.
“O holy night the stars are brightly shining / It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” Amen.
“O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord / Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation.”
“What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” Yes, what child?!
“Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”
“Go tell it on a mountain.” I will! I will! Such was their profound effect on me then, and now. Many others, too.
I hope that if you have not yet been ushered by God’s grace into the Meaning of the sacred songs of Christmas, that their utterly amazing “tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy” will soon be yours.
©2019 by Charles Strohmer
Photos: Creative Commons. Bottom image: Chris Hagood