Christmas music contradictions and Christ our true companion

CJ Bowen  ·  Nov 26, 2019

There is no better way to respond to Christ’s birth than with singing, and over the centuries the Church has amassed a wealth of carols and hymns that is the envy of the world. This has led to all sorts of crooners and warblers without a religious bone in their body recording Christmas albums, interspersing sentimental seasonal fluff alongside forthright carols of Christian joy, topped off with an original or two to try to make their collection distinct.

Sometimes this results in a beautiful voice singing beautiful truth, in a plundering-the-Egyptians, blind-squirrel-finding-a-nut sort of way. Other times, we’re hit with a jarring bolt of aural sacrilege as notorious non-virgins huskily sing of silent nights. But one of the most interesting aspects of an unbelieving artist’s Christmas catalog is the carol of loneliness, a melancholy song about missing out on Christmas joy. While Christians are singing about Immanuel, God with us, The Emotions ask, “’Tis the season to be jolly/But how can I be when I have nobody?” Elvis quavers, “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you,” and Prince mourns, “Last night I spent another lonely, lonely, Christmas.”

Missing the point

Of course, tragedies happen at this season as much as at any other and losses are keenly felt. It’s possible for followers of Jesus to find themselves feeling lonely, especially if they aren’t connected to a good church. Even those who sing of Christ making His blessing flow far as the curse is found acknowledge that this great work isn’t finished yet. But carols of loneliness don’t really represent another side to Christmas as much as a basic failure to appreciate what the birth of Christ really means. It makes no sense to say, in effect, “I know God is with us, I know the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, but I’m still lonely.” Our Christmas balladeers are like children who have grown tired of playing with the packaging, which makes their forlorn tunes somewhat less than profound. Christmas has not left them alone; they haven’t opened the box yet.

Our cheerless carolers think that Christmas is meant to be the answer to their unfulfilled desires. When those desires remain unmet, their Christmas turns blue. What they fail to comprehend is that the gift of Christ was given to satisfy deep desires they don’t even know they have. When the God of heaven draws near to empty the treasures of heaven into the arms of men, they don’t want a lot for Christmas; all they want for Christmas is a boyfriend or girlfriend. Admittedly, wanting human companionship is better than asking for fruitcake or a pair of maxillary central incisors, but like when the cripple asked Peter and John for silver and gold, God’s gift was something far better.

True companionship

Are you longing for companionship? Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, who will never leave you or forsake you. Does marriage sound like heaven to you? Close, but no jingle bell. As wonderful as marriage can be, it simply reflects the union between Christ and His beloved Bride. Are you wishing for the joys of family? Jesus places the lonely in families, promising brothers and sisters and mothers a hundredfold through union with Him. In order to remain lonely at Christmastime, you have to turn away a friend who came down from heaven to be with you.

Jesus does not come to make all your relationship wishes come true, but He does come to restore the only relationship that matters for eternity: “I will be your God, and you shall be My people.” Seek first that Christmas present and you will find that Jesus gives you the gift of better desires for all your other relationships as well. God sent Immanuel to earth surrounded by songs of coming, visitation, friendship, and presence. May such songs rise from the lips of God’s people to drown out these lonely carols. 

Copyright © 2019 Highlands Ministries. Reprinted by permission. <highlandsministriesonline.org/blogs/highlands-blog/impossibility-lonely-christmases/>

Member CJ Bowen is pastor of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Annapolis, Maryland.

Here are some verses from Christmas carols that reveal Christ to us.

O Holy Night

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend; He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger! Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

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.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Away in a Manger

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.
Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you—break your chains:
Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

When I was a seeker
I sought both night and day,
I asked the Lord to help me,
And He showed me the way.
Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain,
Our Jesus Christ is born.

Joy to the World

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.