This year has been a rough one for most people. Politics and a pandemic have disrupted our society, and Christmas will not feel the same for many of us. Perhaps that is why Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (Zondervan) resonated with me. Many of our most loved Christmas carols were written in times of great distress. Some were written in times of grief and loss. Others were written in the midst of warfare and social upheaval. Throughout the centuries, Christians have found hope and faith in songs that celebrate the birth of a Savior who was acquainted with grief and sorrow.
In Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Ace Collins shares the history behind many of our favorite songs of the season. For example, “Angels, From the Realms of Glory” was written by an Irish political activist and agitator who was imprisoned twice for his radical writing. The four calling birds in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” represent Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. “Joy to the World” was written by Isaac Watts in reference to Psalm 98 and was not intended to be a Christmas song. The first music to ever be played on radio airwaves was a violin rendition of “Oh Holy Night.” Did you know that the Latin chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High” may have been sung as early as the third century?
Perhaps my favorite chapter in Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas is the history of “I Heard the Bells of Christmas Day.” Longfellow wrote the lyrics on Christmas Day in 1863. As the church bells of Cambridge, Massachusetts celebrated the birth of Christ, Longfellow poured out his grief and outrage over the Civil War into a poem of lament and hope. After expressing his confusion and despair over a broken and unjust world, Longfellow turns the poem from a lamentation of sorrow into a proclamation of defiant faith. “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fall, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” It is my favorite line in all the carols in our hymnals. When we sing the powerful words, we should lift every voice and put our fists in the air. God will bring healing, for Christ is born. God will bring justice, for Christ is born. God will bring peace, for Christ is born! Glory to God in the Highest.
-Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster