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Oh No…November Carols Already?!

Why are people so angry about Christmas carols in November? A couple of years ago Shoppers’ Drug Mart decided, in response to customer feedback, to nix playing Christmas carols this month. This year they seem to have relented and are now waiting until Remembrance Day has passed. It is amazing though how angry people get about hearing Christmas carols played in November. How sad. To my way of thinking, there’s nothing quite like Christmas carols in November. Our choir has already begun preparing for our “Festival of Lessons and Carols,” and oh how I love to hear them played and sung. There is nothing like sneaking into the church and hearing the choir singing Christmas music in November. There is nothing quite so soul-stirring as the strains of music extolling the birth of our Saviour.

It seems as if we in the liturgical tradition have become hostages to the liturgical year. Even as I am writing these words there are doubtless many liturgical fundamentalists out there bemoaning the fact that Christmas carols are now being played and sung in malls, stores, and perhaps even over the radio. They will lament the fact that carols will stop on December 26th, when the great Twelve Days are only just underway. They will scoff at their brothers and sisters who are members of non-liturgical churches that will sing carols during Advent, when they should be offering Advent hymns. And no doubt, they will deride me for calling them out for what they are, fundamentalists.

To be sure, I think we should have a healthy offering of Advent hymns during the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, hymns that underscore the theme of waiting, of the coming of the Kingdom, of the Blessed Virgin, and John the Baptist who cried out in the wilderness “Prepare ye the Way of the Lord!” It is true that we do not know how to wait very well anymore. It is true that we need to embrace a discipline of waiting from time-to-time. It is true that we ought to take some time to let those Advent themes wash over us. It is true that we ought to enter into the narrative of the liturgical year as a way of participating in the sacred drama. But, the words of that favourite carol are true as well: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

The Lord is come! The great truth of our faith is that Jesus IS here already. What we act out in our liturgical cycle is a drama that allows us to enter into the story and feel the contours of a reality. However, the liturgical cycle is not the reality itself; that God is with us in Jesus Christ, is the reality. God is with us now. He has entered into our lives, into our world, into our hearts. This is not something that has yet to happen; it is for us our reality. When we forget that Jesus is here, that the “Lord is come,” we lose our grasp on reality. If I must give up that reality in favour of the liturgical drama that is intended to help us see it, well, you can keep the liturgical drama, I will choose to sing “the Lord is come!”

None of this is to say that we should abandon Advent and all it means and all it points to. I’m all in favour of the drama of the liturgical year. I love it. I embrace it. I seek to offer a liturgical cycle in our parish that draws the worshiper into the unfolding sacred mystery, into the story of our redemption. But let’s not get all psycho when a Christmas carol slips through here and there. And for goodness’ sake, let’s celebrate the fact that songs extolling the birth in time of the timeless Son of God are still heard in the public sphere. Let’s celebrate that we have the freedom to hear and sing our songs of faith. Let’s celebrate that maybe, just maybe, someone out there will hear the words, “O Holy Child of Bethlehem be born in us today” and Jesus will be real to them and change their life forever. I, for one, am pleased to hear, whether it be in December, or November, or any day of the year, that “the Lord is come.”

Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Comments(4)

  1. Reply
    Alite says

    Good morning, Fr. Daniel, and thank you for your words. I absolutely love the spirit of this time that prepares us for the miracle of Christmas. God is with us, and then our journey on Earth begins. The journey does require the discipline of prayer, the discipline of waiting, the discipline of holding our emotions and trying to understand another part of the happenings, the discipline of writing, the discipline of our every day’s routine… I hope this time of waiting for Christmas is going to be a good time for all of us, for the Church, and for our families. Thank you!

    • Reply
      stpauls says

      Thanks for the thoughts Alite.

  2. Reply
    Terry Dranitsaris says

    I love Christ Mass with all of my heart, as a younger person it was an intricate part of our worship at St. George’s Willowdale. My beloved Grandma and Aunt would make certain every year that this holy season was kept in accordance with our liturgy. I didn’t know all the words to the carols or hymns when I was so young but as I grew up and was older I loved every single carol and hymn and sang them with all of my heart, they were words taken from the word of God. Heralding the coming of Christ, His birth in the manger, Him a King of Kings, The Shepherds, The Magi, all these had meanings to me. That is why I find them so precious and an important part of our liturgy during advent right to Christ Mass through to the Ephinany.

    John the Baptist yes was telling us of one Greater than he was to come. He came and what great and magnificent wonders he did for humankind when he walked on earth. Now as a mighty King beside His Father in Heaven year after year we honour Him at this anniversary time showing our love and devotion for his miraculous birth. His humble birth among animals in a stable. No greater honour can we bestow upon then singing His praises with our voices to glorify His Name and that of His Heavenly Father.

    I can’t think of a greater way to thank God for the Virgin Mary giving birth to his most beloved Son then raising my voice in singing Christ Mass Carols and hymns to honour His great and Holy name and His position as King of Kings and Lord of Lords,

    Thank you, dear Father, for your Precious son Christ Jesus who was born and died for us so that we could gain eternal salvation. Let us resonate our voices to give you thanks and praise.

    Wishing all my family
    A Very Merry Christ Mass
    Terry.

    • Reply
      stpauls says

      Thanks Terry!

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