Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Now that we’re past Thanksgiving, Christmas carols have invaded airwaves, car CD players, iPods and store speaker systems. With the battle between the Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays greeting raging in our overly politically correct society, it’s most likely that the tunes you hear, in public anyway, are limited in scope – somewhere in between Santa Clause is Coming to Town and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. It doesn’t matter if it’s The King or The Boss, Faith Hill or Bing Crosby singing, we still hear the same songs over and over and over.

That’s too bad.

Not only do they too often miss the true meaning of Christmas, they also miss the variety of great Christmas songs available. Traditional songs have slipped through the cracks and newer compositions aren’t familiar enough to catch on. So we’re stuck with holiday songs like Santa Baby or Frosty the Snowman and a handful of carols that are misunderstood enough to maintain a secular audience.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of the songs I’ve mentioned thus far. In fact, I like them all. Just not on a five-minute loop.

I think one way we can highlight the fact that Jesus is the Reason for the Season, one way we can remember the true meaning of Christmas and celebrate the birth of God in flesh is to pay attention to the songs we sing, and to search out a new song or learn more about an old song we’ve mumbled over the words since we were children.

So I think I’ll take time to do that here on Dry Ground – Wednesdays in December.

Starting now.

Many of the best tunes that conjure up warm and fuzzy Yuletide feelings are found in a traditional church hymnal– Silent Night, Away in a Manger, The First Noel. Although as a child I had no clue what the poetic words meant in most of these (wasn’t familiar with round yon virgins or the verb lowing), the melodies absorbed into my psyche and now equal Christmas.

One of those is Joy to the World. Written by well-known hymn writer, Isaac Watts, this Handel-esque anthem based on Psalm 98 (click to read) was meant to celebrate the as-yet future, second coming of Jesus to Earth, not His birth. Here are the words…

Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King.

Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,

And heav’n and nature sing,

And heav’n and nature sing,

And heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns!

Let men their songs employ.

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground.

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness,

And wonders of His love,

And wonders of His love,

And wonders, wonders of His love.

I can see why it turned into a nativity song, but I like looking at it in a new light, embracing the words with Jesus’ return in mind too.

I realize that some people have a hymn-history that isn’t too favorable… my friends and I used to call them “hanging on until you die” songs. J But that wasn’t the songs’ fault! The way in which we sing them, the attitudes of our hearts, garners joy from music, no matter what genre. Still, a different arrangement can spark new appreciation for an old favorite. So take time to listen (click here) to Whitney Houston’s 1996 version of Joy to the World (from The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack). I bet it gets your toe tappin’!

What are some of your favorite traditional carols? Whatever they are, sing them unto the Lord! Sing them out loud, with gusto, and maybe even a dance step or two. Enjoy the music of the season!

As always, thanks for visiting Dry Ground! Be blessed!

(Photos from


LynnRush said...

Okay, my fav is Do you Hear what I Hear? I do love that song, seriously. Another would have to be pretty much anything Celine Dion or Mariah Carey sings.

I know, they are remakes mostly, but I love their voices and they can't screw anything up singing Christmas songs, right? LOL.