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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Like the gospel of Matthew upon which it is based, the song asks the question: what will you do with the good news of God-with-us? 

Said the night wind to the little lamb, do you see what I see? Way up in the sky, little lamb, do you see what I see? A star, a star dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite. With a tail as big as a kite. Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear… Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, do you know what I know? In your palace walls mighty king, do you know what I know? A child, a child shivers in the cold. Let us bring him silver and gold.

This is by far my favorite Christmas song of all time. I can still hear the version from my Disney tape that I had as a small child back in the ’80s. Though I knew very little of the exact story behind the song at the time, the messages dancing through the lyrics spoke to my heart even then.

The song was written in the fall of 1962 by a married couple who were seeking peace in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis – at least that’s the legend. And it is based (in the Hollywood movie sense) upon the nativity story from the gospels. Obviously, they took some license.

The song moves from the night wind to a lamb to a shepherd to a king to the whole world. It starts with the people (and things) we often overlook before turning to those who hold the traditional positions of power.

Like the gospel of Matthew upon which it is based, the song asks the question: what will you do with the good news of God-with-us?

What should you do? First, you should share it with those who can help. Second, you should find ways to help. You help all the other children (and grown-up children, i.e. everybody) that God so loves. And third, you hold on tight to the promise that the Light is shining in the darkness on Christmas is one that nothing will ever overcome.

On this Christmas Eve, listen again to this children’s classic and remember that Christmas is about more than just remembering one moment in Bethlehem. It is about seeing that Child in the face of everyone we meet and doing all we can to make this world a better place. Happy Christmas!


Traditional Hymns & Carols – O Holy Night

Lessons & Carols – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Keep calm. And just keep muddling.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. Next year all our troubles will be out of sight. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Make the yuletide gay. Next year all our troubles will be miles away. Once again as in olden days, happy golden days of yore, faithful friends who are dear to us will be near to us once more. Someday soon we all will be together if the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now. 

This is the song I have been planning to do, but have faced with a good bit of trepidation. You see, it is my second favorite Christmas song of all time. But it also hits extremely close to home.

It was written for the 1944 movie-musical, Meet Me In St. Louis. A movie about the city in which I grew up. Judy Garland was the first to sing it in that film, and Frank Sinatra was first to record it in the years that followed.

In addition to the connection to home, this song also reminds me that Christmas holds a great deal of sadness. Yes, I am overjoyed and filled with excitement as I watch my two-year-old twin sons begin to experience the magic of Christmas. However, tomorrow (Christmas Eve) marks the sixth anniversary of my Dad’s passing from this life. And this song was always my mother’s ringtone this time of year (and she passed three Octobers ago).

The beauty of this song comes from its original intention. Garland is singing to her little sister to comfort her as their entire world is about to change. They are about to move away from the only home they have ever known and be separated from friends and loved ones. And she sings this song of comfort while knowing in her heart that their troubles are only about to get worse.

Here is the truth: when life gets difficult, often all we can do is muddle.

Sinatra’s lyrics tempered this reality a bit and made it much more traditional Christmas-dreamy. But something was lost when he did.

We look for the joy, the beauty, the light even in the hardest of times. We long for Christmas to represent the wonder it could, if only the world were easier. But until everything is set right, this song offers us the chance to embrace the hot mess that is so many of our lives.

There are tears of happiness mixed with tears of sadness during this season. And this song honors them both well. So enjoy the original of this song and hold tight to all your loved ones.

And keep calm. Just keep muddling.


Traditional Hymns & Carols – What Star Is This & As With Gladness Men of Old

Lessons & Carols – Of the Father’s Love Begotten

The Christmas Song

… ultimately the magic comes from you.

 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir and folks dressed up like Eskimos. Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright. Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight… And so, I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to ninety-two – although it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.

Like some of our other popular songs, this classic was also written on a hot summer day 1945. The writers were supposedly not even aware they were writing lyrics because all they cared about was trying to cool off. Nat King Cole was the first to record it, though it was his second set of recordings in 1946 that made it the Christmas standard it is today.

This song captures the magic of Christmas from the beauty of winter to the wonder of Santa himself. But the best part is the final line of the song. Why? Because all of us get to be kids at Christmas, no matter our actual age.

It is a time when miracles and wonders can and do happen. It is an opportunity to create magic for others and those we love. It is the most wonderful time of the year because the whole world comes together in a great conspiracy of love.

So enjoy this song as Christmas Day approaches and remember, the magic ultimately comes from you.


Traditional Hymns & Carols – On This Day Earth Shall Ring & First Nowell

Lessons & Carols – O Magnum Mysterium

Deck the Halls

Simple in its construction, this is a bouncy song that lends itself well to festive gatherings and caroling…

Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. ‘Tis the season to be jolly. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Don we now our gay apparel. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Troll the ancient Yuletide carol. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.

One of the great classics of every Christmas season, this song made it’s debut in the early 1860s when Scotsman Thomas Oliphant penned English lyrics for an old winter Welsh tune from the sixteenth-century. The version we now know so well did not actually appear until at least a decade later.

Simple in its construction, this is a bouncy song that lends itself well to festive gatherings and caroling. Because ultimately it is about that most essential component of the season of Christmas – spending time with others, especially those we love.

So grab a Welsh brown ale and sing along!


Traditional Hymns & Carols – Dancing Day & What Child Is This? 

Lessons & Carols – Here We Come Awassailing

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

…the key emphasis in this song is everyone joining in the party.

Rockin’ around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop. Mistletoe hung where you can see, every couple tries to stop. Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, let the Christmas spirit ring. Later we’ll have some pumpkin pie and we’ll do some caroling. You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear voices singing, let’s be jolly. Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, have a happy holiday. Everyone dancin’ merrily in the new old-fashioned way.

First recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958 when she was just thirteen years old, this song has become one of everyone’s favorite holiday standards.

Like so many of the other songs, it recalls all the major trimmings of the season, with a special emphasis on caroling. Like several others, it is most definitely a dancing tune. And, like a great number of the songs we have seen these recent weeks, it shares the puckish enthusiasm for love and mistletoe.

But the line that makes this one of my favorite Christmas songs is the very last. Yes, it is important that we feel sentimental about the holidays. However, the key emphasis in this song is everyone joining in the party.

Especially by dancing – the way our parents and grandparents learned in the mid-twentieth-century. (Frankly, in my opinion, it is the best way of dancing. Particularly swing and shag.)

So on this Friday night before Christmas, I hope that you are feeling festive and enjoying some cheer with friends and loved ones. And if not, I hope this song will lift your spirits enough to dance around your room, wherever you may be. Because Christmas is nearly here and everyone’s invited to the party. Cheers!


Traditional Hymns & Carols – Coventry Carol & Angels We Have Heard On High

Lessons & Carols – Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

There are people we love that we wish we could be close to again – but circumstances will not allow it…

I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love even more than I usually do. And although I know it’s a long road back, I promise you – I’ll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me. Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree. Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams. I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams. 

First recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby, the song writers Kim Gannon and Walter Kent intended this song to honor the troops of World War II who were away from their families. Within the first few weeks of its release in the fall of 1943, the song was already hitting the charts, where it remained for eleven weeks.

This song tugs at the heart-strings of so many of us. Whether military service or work has taken us away from home, this song echoes the pleas of our own hearts this season. There are people we love that we wish we could be close to again – but circumstances will not allow it.

This means that we should always be reaching out to those who are away from their families and bringing them as much sense of home as we can. And for those of us who find ourselves a long way from where part of our heart remains, it is essential that we find people with which to surround ourselves as the holidays draw near.

In 2006, Josh Groban recorded a cover of this song that honored its original conception. So grab the Kleenex and hold on to your loved ones – wherever they may be.


Traditional Hymns & Carols – Hark! the Herald Angels Sing & Go, Tell It on the Mountain

Lessons & Carols – On This Day Earth Shall Ring

Cool Yule

…parents everywhere, of course, appreciate the toys that will stop their children’s groanings as Christmas approaches.

From Coney Island to the Sunset Strip, somebody’s gonna make a happy trip tonight, while the moon is bright. He’s gonna have a bag of crazy toys to give the groanies of the girls and boys, so dig, Santa comes on big… He’ll come a flyin’ from a higher place and fill the stockings by the fire place so you’ll, have a Yule that’s cool.

This jazzy Christmas song was written by Steve Allen in 1953 and originally recorded by Louis Armstrong. Though it is one of the least known of the “Santa songs,” it shares a bit of the flavor of Armstrong’s birthplace: New Orleans.

The song is fast-paced like Santa’s own journey every Christmas Eve. It makes you want to dance as you prepare for the man in the suit’s arrival. And parents everywhere, of course, appreciate the toys that will stop their children’s groanings as Christmas approaches.

So take a little break today and dance (wherever you are) to a classic Jazz Christmas standard.


Traditional Hymns & Carols – Good Christian Friends, Rejoice & Sussex Carol

Lessons & Carols – Ding Dong Merrily on High