It’s no secret that Christmas is one of my favourite times of year. I love the carols. I love the cheer. I love the presents. I love the carols. I love the food. Particularly turkey (my favourite by all long shot). Did I mention that I love the carols?

This year I decided to do something a bit different. Donned in my Santa hat I stole borrowed from Alex, I have been making my way through our local shopping centres singing carols. It’s been great. Some people were indifferent. Some people were curious. Some were shocked. Actually, most were shocked. Some people looked a little annoyed. But by and large, the majority of people were delighted.

This morning, as we were making our way to get some final pieces for tomorrow’s feast, I heard that about 10% of Sydney would head to the shops today, and about 30% of those people would be substantially stressed. Those numbers really aren’t a surprise to me.

But the joy, the joy, as you see someone hear you singing. They pause what they are doing. They look around. And they smile. I witnessed face after face light up. And person after person joined in and sang along. At one stage I had around 20 people in Coles singing along to O Come All Ye Faithful. Whether they were laughing at me, or singing with me is irrelevant. I’m thrilled that I could brighten someone’s day.

So what is it about Christmas carols that fills people with joy? I’ve started to reflect a bit on what it might be.

1. A good Christmas Song doesn’t necessarily cut it…

Santa Clause is coming to town is a terrible song to sing to fill people with joy. Whether it’s the lyrics about lists, or voyeuristic watching of all you do to judge your suitability for presents; it’s not a happy Christmas song. Singing it in full voice in Myer as you walk through the electronic gifts section is definitely a lot of fun though.

2. Singing in a group is excellent…

There is something about putting your pride and memory on the line in public to sing – a vulnerability if you will – that is infectious. People respond to the openness of people singing and performing without shame.* Scientific Studies have shown the positive health benefits of singing in groups, and the joy that goes with singing together is amazing. Spontaneous Carol singing is an endorphin rush.

3. Joy.

Carols are joyous. The words speak of hope. Hope – because the great saviour of the world came to earth. It’s not an intangible hope expressed in a series of well wishes. It’s Joy to the World – because the Lord of Heaven and Earth has come to make his dwelling with man. It’s the songs of Angel’s singing because the King of the Earth has come to earth. It’s the great news that the one who will save all people from their Sin has begun his life.

And I guess that’s what grabs me anew each Christmas. That God would look into this world of Sin, and send his own Son. His own Son, who gave his life willingly for us so that we can share his heaven.

In the great words of O, Little town of Bethlehem:

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

Or my absolute favourite… O Holy Night:

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name!
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Thank you, Jesus, for entering our world of sin. Thank you, Jesus, for giving us hope. Thank you, Jesus, for saving us. It truly is a Merry Christmas.

* I think it’s a shame we no longer sing in public. Maybe that’s because of the direction of popular music these days. The rise of electronic production enables us to produce melodies and sounds in ways we never have been able to before, but often at the expense of a strong lyrical melody. This is a generalisation to be told – artists like Jason Mraz, Regina Spektor, Florence + the machine, and even Beyoncé still produce amazing lyrical melodies. Christmas Carols are (almost) inherently singable; and the tunes are easy to learn.

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