I am not a cheery person. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself grumpy, but to my knowledge the words “bubbly” “jovial” and “upbeat” have never been used to describe me. So it might surprise some of you to learn that, yes, I am in fact one of those guys who counts down the days until it becomes socially acceptable to start listening to Christmas music again.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who would gladly listen to their Christmas playlist in July, and those who (like the Grinch) have a heart two sizes too small. 

Before I can make my larger point about Christmas music, I need to address the elephant in the room: bad Christmas songs. If I were gifted the Elder Wand (wink to the Harry Potter fans) then I would gladly cast a spell to eradicate from the world the songs “Last Christmas,” “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time,” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” They are terrible songs and should never be played on the radio again. As a connoisseur of sorts, I gladly welcome any arguments about them. Please, just be prepared to be humiliated with the embarrassing amount of over-thinking I’ve put into destroying the merits of those songs.

However, one aspect about Christmas music that I’ve enjoyed this year is thinking about the artists as they recorded the songs. And I’m not referring so much to the fun, lighthearted songs. I’m thinking more of the classic carols. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Not all of my friends and family are people of faith. That’s fine. To each their own. However, I do feel a little sorry for those that can’t appreciate the significance of Christmas beyond it simply being a holiday to gather and exchange gifts with loved ones. Part of the “magic” of Christmas for people like myself is reflecting on the original story. 

Are we alone or could it be true that God exists? And if so, is it possible that He actually looked down and saw mankind flailing about in its misery and decided to enter the picture? Could a baby bedded down in a stable centuries ago alter the course of human history? 

To me, there is something reviving and sustaining about recalling a promise of hope and peace for a troubled world. I believe the longing for hostilities to cease and eternal harmony to fill the earth is buried deep in the heart of every person. That being said, I understand why so many who feel this longing are not interested in religious activities. Having spent the majority of my life in churches I’ve had more exposure than most to the hypocrisy and caustic judgmentalism of church people. I have my own long list of grievances with various institutional religions and their adherents. But perhaps there’s proverbial wisdom in not throwing the baby [in a manger] out with the bath water

Back to my point about Christmas music…

The older I get the less impressed I am with myself and others. My own flaws and the flaws of others become more apparent as months fall off the calendar. Each lap around the block seems to further elucidate the quiet desperation and frailty that myself and my fellow travelers carry with us. 

I’m no longer starstruck by famous people. Whether they be athletes or celebrities or politicians, when I look at them I don’t see extraordinary people. Rather, I see people as weak and neurotic as myself (some of which just happen to possess extraordinary talents). Which is why I have come to love the old Christmas songs of hope sung by flashy celebrities.

I love the idea of very non-churchy people taking a break from narcissistic fan-worship to express vulnerable soul-searching. There’s something reassuring about the sound of hopeful longing flowing from soiled lips. 

For example, like when I hear a sparkling diva like Mariah Carey sing “Joy to the world. The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room”; or the sassy, sultry Christina Aguilera declare “Oh, come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing, oh Come on adore on bended knee Christ, the Lord, our new-born king”; or Celine Dion who gave us Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On” humbly sing “His law is Love and His gospel is Peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease”; or the same Bob Seger who gave us “Old Time Rock & Roll” sing with eyes closed and fists clenched “Little baby [Pa rum pum pum pum] I am a poor boy too. [Pa rum pum pum pum] I have no gift to bring [Pa rum pum pum pum] that’s fit to give our king”…I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture.

These songs have been passed down through the generations and have stood the test of time because they help us endure. Life is hard and fraught with disappointments. So as unholy and unchurchy as you might feel, I hope that you’ll include yourself in the clamoring choir of humanity yearning for peace on earth and good will to mankind. Having weathered the tumult of 2020, I hope you’ll join me in allowing these old songs to do for us what they’ve done for those who came before us: offer a thrill of hope such that a weary world rejoices.