There are many components to what we might call “the Christmas atmosphere”, depending on your particular preferences. Things like satsumas, roasted chestnuts, tinsel adorning everything conceivably adornable*, flashing lights, mince pies, mulled wine, and so on. But there is one thing that trumps them all for getting us in the Christmas mood – music.
It’s played in shops from mid-November onwards (if you’re lucky). It’s sung by church choirs. It’s sung by enthusiastic (if less skilled) pub goers. It’s played on pretty much all radio stations as soon as December arrives. And because it’s represented in every conceivable musical style, it’s accessible to absolutely everyone.
I have my own Christmas traditions involving music. Every year, without fail, I am compelled to create a new jazzy arrangement of a Christmas carol which, sadly, is likely only to be heard by me and the spider living inside my keyboard**. Then there’s the Christmas jazz group at church, which plays an assortment of festive tunes between the 4pm and 6pm carol services on Christmas Eve. And of course Christmas wouldn’t be complete without tinkling the ivories of whatever piano happens to be available when we visit various family households, frequently culminating in a duet of sorts with my brother on whatever instrument(s) happen to be at hand.
Have we missed the point, though? Are we in danger of forgetting the wonder of Jesus’ incarnation amidst all that sound-making? This year I worked up an interesting arrangement of ‘Silent night’ on the piano, which sounded really cool, but if I’m honest it had nothing to do with the words and even less to do with worshipping Jesus. Last night I went to the Service of Lessons and Carols at our church, a traditional choir-led evening of music and familiar Bible readings. The harmonies made me remember with fondness singing all those parts in the school choir, and I took pleasure in listening to the natural acoustics of the church. But where was God? Even in a church, in a religious service, surrounded by Christians, singing songs all about Jesus, listening to verses from the Bible about Jesus, it seems it’s possible to miss what it all means (that’s a topic for another day).
Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill. Maybe it’s just me, and everyone else hears God loud and clear in all Christmas music. Maybe I should take comfort that we still manage to trickle-feed theology into the masses every year, getting them to sing songs about God without them realising. One thing’s for sure – if Christmas was totally devoid of Christmas music it would take a very long time indeed (if at all) for me to feel ‘Christmassy’.
What about you? Do you need music to get into the Christmas mood?
* I’m not sure ‘adornable’ is actually a word. Apologies.
** I’m not 100% certain there is a spider in my keyboard. It would be cool though.