I may be labeled as a Grinch or Scrooge, but I am really put off by the way that radio bombards us with really stupid Christmas music. I am addicted to Sirius, but I have to play the car radio buttons like piano keys to get the kind of traditional Yule music I like.
(In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit to one exception: Eartha Kitt purring for “Santa Baby” to come down the chimney tonight. I heard that today and didn’t change stations. Oh well, nobody’s perfect).
But other than that exception, the rock versions of Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer have me jabbing at buttons. My overwhelming preference is for traditional sacred music at Christmas, like Silent Night, O Come All You Faithful, and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,
I do enjoy the old favorites that have no sacred theme but do celebrate family life and coming home for the Yuletide. Our own family (five children and 12 grandchildren) will be arriving shortly, and I look forward to the homecoming more eagerly with every passing year. Often we have more than 20 sleeping overnight, travelers from Chicago and Northern Michigan. We even have a great-grandchild eagerly awaiting a reunion with his cousins. Life is good.
So that the younger kids can wake up at home on Christmas morning, we usually celebrate our Yule a week or so before Dec. 25. We spend Christmas Eve and Day quietly with our single daughter, catching up on movies. Yes, we do exchange more presents on both Christmas Eve and the next morning. Sometimes we attend Midnight Mass.
My emotional antennae are tuned to the traditional music of Christmas. It is those sacred songs that trigger for me the joyful memories of believing in Santa, of looking out the front window and seeing Santa on our front porch, of me playing one of the Three Kings in a Christmas play. (Would the three kings be allowed past the school door today? Would Mr. Dawson, principal of Edgar Guest Elementary School in Detroit, be allowed as the Korean War raged to tell us that there are no atheists in foxholes? How the world has changed since those innocent days).
But there is a stronger reason for my preference for sacred music at Christmas. We celebrate that day because of the Incarnation. So many of us call ourselves Christians but have only a vague idea of what the Incarnation is all about. It is the day that God became man. For Christians this makes all the difference. This god-man Jesus walked the earth and died a criminal’s ignominious death to open again the pathway to life everlasting with him. Northing could ever be the same again.
Not for a moment do I suggest any lack of warmth or joy or sincerity in other folks’ approach to Christmas. I do suggest, however, that the joys of family life and the emotional tugs we feel at Christmas are only a taste of the wonderful reality that underlies the holiday. As to those folks for whom Christmas only means getting gifts, well, I don’t know what to say. Miss Kitt wanted a sable and a convertible. I wonder if she ever got them.
Oh, well, lest I get carried away with lofty ideas, especially those that might seem to pass judgment on other people, it’s probably good that an Eartha Kitt comes along to remind me that we are all just human, made up of flesh and blood. It brings me down to earth.
By the way, did you know that Miss Piggy also recorded that song?