Tis the season to be jolly?
by Andrea Elizabeth
Joyful sorrow is the Orthodox motto, including at Christmastime. We fast instead of feast during the Advent season. We call to mind the unnecessarily painful life and death we gave Christ to inhabit. I have heard a joyful Christmas set of hymns from St. Vladimir Seminary, but it seems we don’t sing many special songs during the Nativity Season. I did notice a few Pascha sounding ones during the Matins portion of Vigil the other day. And there will be several non-choral sounding hymns devoted to the theology of the Nativity, especially Christmas Eve. But we don’t have the memorizable carols that the west has, or even the special hymns and repeatable ones we have during Great Lent before Pascha/Easter. That is our stand out season. Protestants have the corner on special music during the Christmas season. I grew up Protestant and Andy Williams’ Christmas album was my go-to entertainment. I’ve highlighted it and how much I love the Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life before.
I think the difference has to do with the mindset of Protestant triumphalism. Being saved for them has more of the trippy skippy tune of, “Ding, dong, I’m not going to be punished” than “You better watch out” (won’t say, “you better not pout” because pouting is more the Protestant sin of lacking faith).
But still, the angels came to the shepherds with the glory of the Lord and good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people! For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord! Glory to God in the Highest! I think Handel’s Messiah, despite a subtle nod to Protestant soteriology, is entirely fitting, meet and right for Christmas. And Hark the Herald Angels Sing. And Silent Night. And Oh Come All Ye Faithful. And Sweet Little Jesus Boy.
But, while salvation is available to all, it must be individually appropriated, so just listening to a song and assuming that one should feel comforted that that their warfare is accomplished and their iniquity is pardoned, does not make it automatically so. One has to repent first. If one isn’t repentant, then the glorious coming of God to us, and who is now with us in the flesh, should inspire us to be like him by his grace.