Christmas is upon us. We have passed through the 4th Sunday of Advent and in a few more days we will celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior. The mystery of the Incarnation is a profound one. As St. John writes in his gospel, and as the words parsed into English literally mean, “He pitched his tent among us.”
You don’t have to be a Marine to appreciate those words, but it doesn’t hurt. Our prayers are answered and Emmanuel comes! After all, leadership by example is always appreciated in the circles I travel in. He comes as promised and yet in an unexpected way. Poor, weak, and vulnerable. And as I hope the following music selections will show, in a very inspiring way too.
We’ll start with something from my favorite composer/priest, see the story unfold before our eyes in music and song from diverse languages and cultures, and wind this all up with a few modern classics. Rejoice!
Gloria in excelsis Deo, Et in terra pax, etc., by Father Antonio Vivaldi. Played and sung brilliantly by these anonymous folks here. Vivaldi really enjoyed fast tempo music, blasting through chords and riffs like a Shelby Cobra ripping through a road course. Blazing speed. And these good folks are up to the challenge. Baroque or bust!
The Nativity of Jesus. I love this, simply love it. And what a great little movie! You simply can’t beat the sound track to it either. Check out these costumes! The camels! The gifts!
Kontakion of Christmas. A brief sample of the work of St. Romanus the Melodist. Stunning and majestic. Romanus had a vision of the Blessed Virgin once. That event changed his life forever. And get this…this version is even in English.
Christ is Born!Xristos Yennatai! St. Romanus the Melodist isn’t the only game in town either. How about this kontakion credited to a St. Cosmas. I’m not sure about that, but maybe one our Orthodox brethren know for sure. Sound off if you do. I only know one thing: it is beautiful.
An Arabic Christmas Carol (Byzantine Hymn of the Nativity). This is a wonderful compilation of images and wonderfully haunting music. I lived in Egypt for a time and learned to speak a little Arabic while I was there. Not enough to be fluent, or read it, but enough to appreciate beauty when I hear it. Christians speak Arabic,see? And they sing the Nativity story as majestically as anyone else, if not more so.
O Holy Night, in Mandarin. What more can I say except that Christ came for the salvation of all. I only wish I could plug a video in here for every language on the planet. Christianity is spoken here!
Christ Is Born – Hwelih Isho’, Chaldean Hymn. Beautiful iconography and art accompanies this video. Chaldean Christians have endured some of the worst persecution for the faith imaginable. In the Kingdom of Heaven, I suspect they will be rewarded greatly.
And now to the modern and a couple of my personal all time favorites.
Little Drummer Boy, David Bowie and Bing Crosby. Yes, yes, the entire scene is contrived. And if Bing isn’t the “poor relation from America” then I’ll fill that role for him. These two together, singing this particular song, became an instant Christmas classic.
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Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Duet
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Nutcracker Suite, Tchaikovsky by the Brian Setzer Orchestra?! So it isn’t religious. So what? I like it anyway. If it wasn’t for Christmas, Tchaikovsky wouldn’t even have bothered. Brian and his band set this classic to the boogie-woogie beat. I dare you to say it doesn’t get your toes a tappin’.
Medley: The First Noel/ Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/ O Come, All Ye Faithful/ We Wish A Merry Christmas; Ray Coniff and his Singers. One of my wife and my favorite CD’s to be played this time of year. And though I don’t ever remember watching this special on television, I’m glad there was one and that Ray & Co. sang these great Christmas spirituals.
Have a Blessed Christmas everyone!