Christmas carols

I first noticed this a few years ago, but I’ve been struck again this season how much many Christmas carols talk about social justice.  This shouldn’t be surprising — Mary’s beautiful Magnificat, which you might call the first Christmas song or poem,  is heavily focused on God’s justice in providing for the poor and needy: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1: 52-53).

Here are a couple good examples of Christmas lyrics that touch on social justice themes.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
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.
     – from “O Holy Night

O come, Desire of Nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease.
Fill all the world with heaven’s peace.
     – from “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

These words remind me that Christmas isn’t  just about me, or my loved ones, or the people I know.  It’s not about getting things, or getting certain feelings.  Christmas is about the birth of a baby, the Son of God, but its significance goes beyond that.  Jesus lived and died to save human beings, representatives of all races, ethnicities, classes, and stations in life.  He has demonstrated His love for us all, and His desire for us to love and care for one another.  If we want to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, we have to take this into account.  I’m grateful that the words to some of my favorite Christmas hymns help remind me to do that.


~ by h.e.g. on December 25, 2008.

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