Mary’s was the original Christmas carol. She is the reason that we sing our way through the season, the reason we can muster a song of joy in December, despite whatever cold, gray, snow or sleet might otherwise prevail. (Well, not at my house–70 and sunny here in AZ today, and yet the desert folks are dragging out mittens and making chili…)
Thanks to Mary’s song of praise, we enjoy a whole broad spectrum of songs in this season that help us to worship, to celebrate, to engage the gospel in our time and place. We hear songs about Jesus piping through the speakers in places where he might not otherwise be invited to darken the door. With so many memories and presents attached to them, even our secular holiday tunes take on a sacred hue. It is all good news.
Well, not all. Sometimes, when you hear the 18th rendition of ‘O, Holy Night’ on any given Tuesday; or when a young pop star has somehow managed to make ‘Away in the Manger’ sound kind of slutty; or when Michael Buble puts on, what my friend Heather so eloquently calls a “Christmas for Sad Ladies” special; well, it can all start to feel like a dreadful cold that just will not quit.
This Christmas– as i continue to remind Pandora that i do NOT enjoy Celine Dion– I will share with you my preferred soundtrack of the season. I probably shared some of these last year, but they are still just that good. Most of these albums strike a nice chord (yes, pun on purpose) of balance between the sacred and secular, working to bridge that gap in very Christmas-spirited kinds of ways. Download a few of these, and enjoy a Very-Irreverin Holiday Spectacular!
Everything on Emmylou’s Light of the Stable is pure magic. You will play it over, and over, and over.
Take the Sting out of the cold with If On a Winter’s Night. Celtic awesomeness. “Gabriel’s Message” is my favorite!
Open A Christmas Gift from Phil Spector. Yeah, we’ll try not to think about his grisly end while enjoying these great vocals.
A Christmas Together with John Denver and the Muppets. Because it’s John Denver! And the Muppets!
My husband, the music snob, starts the Charlie Brown Christmas track on the week before Thanksgiving, and pretty much runs it on a loop for 6 weeks straight. True story. He’s also partial to Dave Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas.
Guess who has a new Christmas album out this year?? Willie Nelson!!
And now for something new and different. Check out this free download from Hill and Hale. They are friends of my brother’s, and are offering all this holiday happiness for just a tweet or a ‘like’ on facebook. Get it now before they’re famous, cause they should be charging cash money for this stuff. I tell you, those Belmont kids… you get any two alumni in a room together, and you will have Grammy-winning material in two hours’ time.
Happy listening! For many of us, the best music of all is what we sing together, in our candle-lit sanctuaries on Christmas Eve. But you know, there’s something to be said for a long, loud prelude. Enjoy all these joyful noises, while we wait.