The first Christmas started with a song
Published 12:00 am Friday, December 14, 2007
Some of my fondest memories of Christmas as a child include putting up Christmas decorations to the sounds of Johnny Mathis singing “Winter Wonderland”, Elvis singing “Blue Christmas”, and even the Chipmunks infamous “Here Come Santa Claus”!
I grew up around music. My Dad was a nightclub entertainer for as long as I can remember, my Mom loved music as well and so at Christmas time each year our house was filled with melodies that added to the season.
My children are no different, I can still picture my little girl laying under a newly decorated Christmas, she was probably around six or so, singing along with Nat King Cole’s version of “What Child is this?” oblivious to her daddy and the camcorder capturing the moments for Terri and I to cry as we watch years later.
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Kind of fitting don’t you think? That praise would be such a wonderful part of our Christmas memories?
It’s sort of how the First Christmas started. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”
Awesome isn’t it, how that praise, music, and song played a part in pointing people to the newborn King?
According to historian Bill Petro, music early became a marked feature of the Christmas season.
But the first chants, litanies, and hymns were in Latin and too theological for popular use. The word carol comes from the Greek word “choraulein” which is an ancient circle dance performed to flute music.
In the Middle Ages, the English combined circle dances with singing and called them carols.
Later, the word carol came to mean a song in which a religious topic is treated in a style that is familiar or festive.
Interestingly enough, during the British Commonwealth government under Cromwell, the British Parliament prohibited the practice of singing Christmas carols as pagan and sinful. (Kind of reminds me of the some of the Christmas Grinches of our day doesn’t it?)
Puritans at this time disapproved as well of the celebration of Christmas, and did not close shop on that day, but continued to work through Dec. 25. Can you say Scrooge?
During this brief interlude in English history, during which there was no monarch, this activity by the populace was to remain illegal.
But this activity was prohibited only as long as the Commonwealth survived, and in 1660, when Charles II restored the Stuarts to the throne, the public was once again able to practice the singing of Christmas carols.
And so it is today a wonderful part of our Christmas celebrations. Here at the Plymouth Heights church where I am blessed to Pastor, our choir has performed this years Cantata four times already.
And what is amazing is that just like the first Christmas when humble shepherds were drawn to the baby Jesus through the praise of the angelic chorus announcing His birth, this week alone we have witnessed 22 precious souls find their way to the very same Savior of the World!
When World War I erupted in 1914 launching the first great European war of the 20th century, soldiers on both sides were assured they would be home by Christmas to celebrate victory.
However, on Christmas Eve in December 1914 one of the most unusual events in military history took place on the Western front. On the night of Dec. 24 the weather abruptly became cold, freezing the water and slush of the trenches in which the men bunkered.
On the German side, soldiers began lighting candles. British sentries reported to commanding officers there seemed to be small lights raised on poles or bayonets. Although these lanterns clearly illuminated German troops, making them vulnerable to being shot, the British held their fire.
Even more amazing, British officers saw through their binoculars that some enemy troops were holding Christmas trees over their heads with lighted candles in their branches.
The message was clear: Germans, who celebrated Christmas on the eve of Dec. 24, were extending holiday greetings to their enemies.
Within moments of that sighting, the British began hearing a few German soldiers singing a Christmas carol. It was soon picked up all along the German line as other soldiers joined in harmonizing.
The words heard were these: “Stille nacht, heilige nacht.” British troops immediately recognized the melody as “Silent Night” quickly neutralized all hostilities on both sides.
One by one, British and German soldiers began laying down their weapons to venture into no-man’s-land, a small patch of bombed-out earth between the two sides.
So many soldiers on both sides ventured out that superior officers were prevented from objecting. There was an undeclared truce and peace had broken out.
Isn’t that really what Christmas does in the heart of a man or woman who truly finds this Christ child?
The wars that rage in the hearts of those away from God find a peace that can only come from another world because it has never existed in theirs before.
The music of Christmas still points us to the one who came to this world to bring hope, peace and love in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Tim Throckmorton is pastor of Plymouth Heights Church in Franklin Furnace. He can be reached at Pastor Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.