What aspect of Christmas takes you right back to your childhood? Hint: If you’re like me, it’s even more nostalgic than the tempting aroma of Grandma’s cherry pie or the sweet taste of eggnog and peppermint sticks.
So…what is it? The wonderful music of Christmas, of course!
“All I Want For Christmas Is You” makes me want to curl up by the fireplace with my husband, Dave. “Joy to the World!” brings to mind the very first time I heard the perfect descending scale that opens this majestic carol—the day I joined my timid childish voice with a larger group at school. “Sleigh Ride” and “Jingle Bells” bring out the wiggles in kids and make us all want to dance a little. Even our tiny grandniece, Avianna Jane, likes to sing “Jingle Bells”—on pitch, too!
“Silent Night,” while sung at candlelight service on a snowy Christmas Eve, encourages us to count our blessings and extend them to others. “Breath of Heaven” opens our hearts ever wider to God’s calling on our lives.
The minor strains of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” have been a favorite since my earliest childhood. (“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”) Wow, old English aside, those lyrics are the perfect devotional for any time, and especially at Christmas! I remember learning to play that carol at the piano, my seven-year-old hands stretching for the octaves in the chorus (“Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!”).
Years later, as a high school student, I created classical arrangements of my most cherished carols, which I eventually taught to many piano students prior to becoming a full-time author.
There’s something sacred that tugs at our heartstrings when we hear the memorable melodies and the oh-so-familiar lyrics. After lighting the candles on a very special birthday cake on Christmas Eve, my family also loves to sing the “Happy Birthday Song” for Jesus in four-part harmony. It’s just one of our many traditions around here.
My Plain friends and relatives, Amish and Mennonite, enjoy spreading Christmas cheer by caroling from farmhouse to farmhouse.
Can’t you just hear the clear, unison voices in the still of a cold and starry night? I remember the first time I heard my Mennonite relatives sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It was all I could do as a child not to burst into applause at the end. (When those around me quietly said amen at the song’s conclusion, that was my cue not to clap.)
Another carol I love for many reasons is “Angels We Have Heard on High.” My younger sister, Barbara, our parents, and I started singing this carol with all the verses when I was very young and just learning to sing in harmony. Our rendition of this joyful carol has been part of our extended family Christmas tradition for all these many years—even now, as my brother-in-law sings the melody and Mom sings it in heaven.
Love of music, Christmas carols and otherwise, has been a major part of my life since I was just four years old and started taking piano lessons. Making music and writing stories have been my life’s passions from early on. Interestingly, an astute editor once told me that the perfect paragraph incorporates musical rhythm, as well as a lyrical quality. Undoubtedly, you’ve noticed that aspect of the poetic in many of your favorite authors’ writings, as well.
When we gather for our annual gingerbread house-making party, a few days before December 25th, we also make live music, singing and at the piano.
This music includes original compositions by our niece Amy, who inspires us with her new piano works each year.
After cleaning up leftover sweets from our gingerbread house “masterpieces,” and before the potluck supper, the young girls in our family take turns playing with a brand-new puppy found in someone’s Christmas stocking.
My wish for you this year is that the carols of Christmas will warm and cheer your heart, bringing healing and comfort if needed, and above all, stirring your faith. May the well-loved songs point to the truest of all reasons to celebrate. Without Christ’s coming, we would be lost, still searching…longing for the Light of God’s love. But good tidings of great joy, dear friend: Christ has come, indeed—“Emmanuel, God with us”! Such astonishing truth and amazing grace, all wrapped up into one glorious gift for you, and for me.
A very Merry Christmas from our house…to yours!
Is music a part of your family’s celebration of Christmas? In what ways?
Some of Bev’s favorite carols:
Most Recent Release: The Secret Keeper
Jenny Burns has always had an “old soul,” but her quest to join the Amish world will challenge her spirit—and her heart—in ways she never expected.