Saturday, December 23, 2006

Devil's Music

Back in 1972, Larry Norman asked the question “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” With that song alone, Christian rock was gifted with two catchy slogans: the question posed by the song title and also the phrase “Jesus is the rock that rolled my blues away.”

Whether or not the devil has all the good music has remained a hot debate (in some circles), but there’s one area in which the devil loses and Jesus wins hands down: Christmas music.

There is nothing more culturally sinister than bad Christmas music, except perhaps bland Christmas music. Not only is it bad, but it is practically guaranteed to be make the shopping mall playlists since a hefty volume of songs is required during the holiday(s) season. Now that starkly religious music is considered offensive, public spaces about with songs like Paul McCartney’s regrettable “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” or the exceedingly unconvincing “I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas” by, of all people, Bon Jovi.

Devil's music indeed.
You can move up the ladder a little bit with kids’ tunes like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” or perhaps Alvin and the Chipmunks. You’ve attained to cute but certainly haven’t reached the profound. And “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” can only get you so far. (Also, regarding Rudolph, don’t you find it a bit unbelievable that his reindeer bullies would suddenly turn into his strongest supporters at the end of the story – instead of crucifying him out of envy? Something to consider.)

Among the Christmas songs about Jesus, however, are some true winners. This makes sense, since the holiday was born to commemorate his birth. How can you beat this:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

Or the more familiar:

Hark the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

The best part of the Christmas hymns to Christ are usually reserved for the later verses however. Consider the second verse to “What Child is This?”:

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

That Word will top all the words to “Jingle Bell Rock” any day. After all, Jesus is the rock that… well, you get the idea.

1 comment:

UUinDC said...

I agree with your basic premise here - Christmas music without mention of Christ or his divine purpose clearly misses the point of the season.

However, I’d like to invite you to reconsider whether or not it is really a bad thing that this secular “Xmas” music dominates the airwaves at public spaces – particularly shopping malls.

I, for one, would be more offended if these modern-day temples to the Almighty Dollar were to play “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, or even selections of “The Messiah” as consumers take their children to sit on the lap of the Coca-Cola inspired Santa Claus or mill about Best Buy looking for the biggest TV they can afford. After all, the true sentiment of the season, and its traditional music, should never be used as marketing tools.

Aren’t songs like “Rudolph” and “The Little Saint Nick” more fitting for this atmosphere?