I love anything in a minor key. Anything moody, dark, and as far from the jingly jangly crap you hear in malls as possible. O Come O Come Emmanuel, is a favorite of mine, as are The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. I tend to appreciate sacred songs, English or French carols, and dislike anything from the 50’s 60’s era of pouring on the cheeze. Truly, though, the greatest Christmas song of all time might be the Chieftain’s version of St Stephens Day Murders.
I am neither Friar nor Fool, but am in fact the Grinch. On the whole, I really don’t like Christmas music. I think what killed it for me was working retail during the holiday season. Once you hear sappy Christmas songs on an 8-song loop for 40 hours a week while dealing with crazed, high-stress holiday shoppers – it’s like aversion conditioning. I hear the music and I flinch a little, inside. Silent Night can be okay in the context of a meaningful evening worship service. Watchman, Tell Us of the Night is also okay. Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow is a third one that comes to mind. But “okay” is probably the best rating a Christmas song will get from me.
For me, I think a Christmas song that is actually good must embrace a deeper sense of the season. It must share something deeper than an idealized version of reality. For me Christmas comes in words like …O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. Consider again that line…The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. That is God come among us, to that Little Town of Bethlehem. That is the true Spirit of Christmas captured in song, the good news of the gospels. The true miracle of Christmas is one of incarnation, of God becoming flesh and blood and moving into the messy messed up neighborhoods of our real lives, not the just over idealized Christmas card ones. All our hopes and fears met by a God who comes to be born to us today.