I haven’t done any statistical research, but I’d venture to say,
without too much risk, that there are more songs written and sung—
in live performances and on radio and television and computer and other social media and quoted and printed on more cards and plaques and cups and plates and other crafts than any other celebratory event or holiday in history.
When I was a child and even as a teenager my family always made the delightful annual 9-mile journey— from our home in Caledonia to my Aunt Eldora’s Christmased home Spring Grove. It was after our very traditional and ritual-laden 5 pm Christmas Eve worship at St. John’s —off into the starlit darkness of that glorious night—
Dad and mom would pack all of us kids and all of the gifts and all of our family’s contribution to the extended family feast into the station wagon and off we’d go— over the hills and through the valleys of Houston Co on HWY 44— singing merrily and in 4 part harmony— we’d sing as many and merry Christmas carols with as many verses as we could remember. We kept counting each year to see if we could beat the total for last year. Five… ten… fifteen… and sixteen, seventeen and…maybe more carols without any repeats.!. We often arrived before barely scratching the surface of our repertoire of songs. Mostly sacred, but several secular too… Jingle Bells, White Christmas, and Frosty.
When Lori and I married and began our own family, we picked up the tradition for our minivan journeys to Bloomington to her family on Christmas Eve and to Caledonia and my family on Christmas Day. Oh, what fun it was to ride— in the Christmas wagon and the van of the Ruserts!
Wonderful carol after carol…
“Joy to the World, the Lord is come…” — that one was an automatic…
all four verses from memory… back in the days of my childhood and then back in the days of my children’s childhood… But, just the other night, while pondering beloved memories of Christmases past— when I got to the fourth verse of Joy to the World it hit me…
“He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove… REALLY!?! He rules? THIS world?
The rudeness and evil of reality HIT me.!. like an ice cold chill of the mind and the sharp prick of the heart. Have you been listening or watching the BAD News?
How many thousands of helpless, innocent women and children in Syria… murdered!? — so far —just this year…
How many thousands of starving, emaciated children in Darfur Sudan… victims of genocide!? — so far — this year…
How many senseless acts of terror around the world this year alone… taking the lives and terrorizing the souls of humanity!? SO far…
How many shootings and killings in Chicago… alone… this year… so far…
3400 + shootings… injuring multiples of 1000s… with 738 killed…
as of 4 days ago… with 11 more days of 2016 to count down!!!
All these numbers are exhausting and depressing and despairing…
The curse of hatred and greed and insanity in the stone-cold hears of inhumanity…
And then it HIT me… just the day before Christmas Eve day…
Friday on HWY 610 in Maple Grove… listening and singing along to KTIS 98.5 Christmas carols on the car radio—
I had never heard it before, though from my Google investigation when I got home it looked to be six years old already… How I missed it each of these previous six Decembers I don’t know… with all of the SUV December commuting and Christmas song radio-listening miles, I have put on—
one would think I would have heard it before!
Regardless, it was brand spanking new carol for me— and the message it carried HIT me with Good News for me and ALL whom God favors… Here it is…
“How Many Kings” — a Christmas worship song from a 2010 Christmas Carol CD by contemporary Christian worship group, Downhere…
New Release Team music critic and contributor, Kevin Davis, after interviewing
the Downhere composer and lead singer Marc Martel, shared this reflection on
“How Many Kings”:
“It is a very powerful Christmas song that really challenges you to think about the sacrifice that our King Jesus made on our behalf. Truly, no other king in the history of the world besides Jesus humbled themselves to come off their throne to become one of their own and become the least…for me. For that, I am eternally grateful.”
WOW! Profound impact — in real life…
Listen closely now…
with your listening ears sharp and your sensing hearts open…
How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
The power… of one solitary song… what does it do for you.?.
What does it do to you.?.
What does it do to your doubts… your fears… our anger…
our exhaustion… our hopelessness… our despairing?
What does it do for our temptation to cynicism
and for our inclination to sIn-icism?
What do the incredible sacrifices of a Heavenly Father and
the Incarnate Son do for…your experience of the meaning and wonder
and amazing grace of Christmas?
One faith-filled answer comes in the prose of an anonymous poet was captured in a compilation of Christmas stories: “One Solitary Life”
“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village,
the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village.
He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.
Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never owned a home. He never wrote a book.
He never held an office. He never had a family.
He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born.
He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.
He had no credentials but Himself…
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away. One of them denied Him.
He was turned over to His enemies.
He went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves.
While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property
He had on earth – His coat.
When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave
through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen long centuries have come and gone,
and today He is a centerpiece of the human race
and leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that
all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built;
all the parliaments that ever sat and
all the kings that ever reigned, put together,
have not affected the life of (humanity) upon this earth
as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”
Christmas carols can be moving, inspiring, transforming…
They can also become SO familiar as to fall silent even as we sing them…
Silent enough for us to miss their eternal life Good News message
here and now… THIS day – in the city of David – is born to you a savior who is Christ the Lord.
In our real rude world, where SO much horror seems to reign
the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the Chorus of the Heavenly Hosts ring clear like Christmas Church bells through the crisp morning air…
Luke 2:10-12… News… GOOD News for all the bad times:
10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And then, the very first of all carols— sung by an army of angels choir:
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
The Shepherds hearts and lives were transformed — inspired to abandon their sheep and rush with haste to see Salvation born to them— to us— to all.
Imagine the hearts and minds, the very souls of the shepherds as they see— and hear— an ANGEL HOST singing the very first Christmas Carol…
Spine-tingling — hair-raising — heart thumping!
Do we think the shepherds needed a “sign” of a baby in cloths in a manger as if the heavenly signs weren’t enough?
And then the message I overlooked HIT me… the third verse from “Joy to the World” echoed back in my mind
“No more let sin and sorrow grow nor thorns infest the ground…
He comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found!!!
Far are—as the curse is found…
far are—as…far a-a-as the curse is found!
No darkness… no curse… no evil — then or now or ever — is strong enough to hold back the goodness and light of the Lord of Life!
How many Kings… in your life… How many Fathers…
would give everything for one little lonely solitary you?
In the Name of the King of Kings born to us this day. Amen