by Ken Rolheiser
The Magic of Christmas Carols in January

This year I am dedicating some January columns to the continuing joy that is Christmas – Christ with us – all through the year.

Most of us were in search of the Christmas Spirit during the Advent of pre Christmas days. We went to office parties or social events where we sang Christmas carols. We looked around at our friends and colleagues, even the ones who are not church goers, and we noticed a transformation.

For whatever reason, when we sing together those time-worn carols and hear the magic of “Silent Night” – Christ our Savior is Born! or “O Little Town of Bethlehem” - The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee tonight, a joy seems to be shared in the eyes of all present.

I believe the singing of carols takes us back to a time of innocence, a time when we believed, absolutely, in the incarnation and redemption role of the Son of God. We could then approach the Christ Child, as all babies are approachable, with awe and love.

The hymns of our fathers and mothers remind us again of what we know in faith deep down in our hearts. The words of “Oh Come Little Children” which I first sang in German, bring us to “Bethlehem’s stall”. “He's born in a stable for you and for me”.

The message of God’s gift that sets us free, fills our hearts with love and brings peace to earth is irresistible. We join in the joy, “That gladdened the world on that first Christmas Day.”

In spite of what detracts us from that Spirit of Christmas, be it grieving the loss of a loved one, illness, pain and suffering, or the reminders of our own mortality, we have hope. Jesus is love. Jesus lightens our burdens. The baby at Bethlehem invites with no threat. And that is God’s plan the whole year round.

We need to go caroling, to sing our joy in families, in church, in the electronic media. Covid-19 underscores the pain of not being able to do all of these. Gloom and darkness threaten many, but the antidote is here.

Ring those bells. Play the music of Christmas Carols past and present shared by many of the great entertainers. From Bing Crosby to Boney M, to Elvis Presley, Taylor Swift, Tom Jackson, Johnny Reid, Carrie Underwood… the list goes on in no particular order.

The gloom of the world seems to return in January, often leading to despair in the darkness of winter. If you find the Christmas cheer in your Christmas experience, that means you have the Christmas Spirit. Rejoice! You are still a seeker, one of the Magi or Wise Men.

It is this very joy that leads me to crank up the Christmas Carol music in my car driving down the highway on a hot July day. And when I can remember the Christmas story, I find joy all year round. "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1).

And when suffering or burdens weigh us down: “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).

We can sit on God’s lap every day of the year and feel the welcoming love sent to us with the birth of Jesus. Jesus is a love we can touch.

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