For many of us, music is very important, but the constant Christmas jingles blaring out from supermarkets and in shopping centres can be a draining experience. The fact that these start in early November and go on ceaselessly until the New Year often detracts from our enjoyment of the season; yesterday, I had to swim to the strains of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and other Christmas songs, which always seems rather pointless to me, given that much of the time swimming is spent with water in the ears rendering hearing difficult!

There is also, I think, a vast difference between Christmas songs and Christian songs. The former cover a whole range of themes, ranging from snow (‘Winter Wonderland’, ‘Frosty the Snowman’, ‘Let It Snow’), to Father Christmas (poor old Santa stuck up the chimney or fortunate Santa kissing Mummy, depending on your point of view), to what I call the ‘mulled wine’ experience (‘Mistletoe and Wine’, ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an open fire’ and so on.) Schmaltz doesn’t do much for me personally and I often feel irritated by these lyrics, especially those that combine ‘lurve’ with Christmas (my particular bête noire is the one where you give your heart away on Christmas Day only to have it broken on Boxing Day…) The latter are not exempt from sentimentality (do we really think Jesus never cried as a baby?), but at least they do focus on the reason we are celebrating, rather than simply telling us to be happy without giving us any reason why we might actually find joy!

One of the best Christian albums on this theme I know is Michael Card’s ‘The Final Word’, which looks at the incarnation of Christ. There are songs on this album which would never make it onto the supermarkets’ happy jingles, but which reflect the whole gamut of emotions of Christmas (‘Spirit of the Age’ looks at the slaughter of the innocents, for example, and reminds us that this slaughter continues to this present day: ‘innocent and helpless little babies/ offerings to the spirit of the age.’)

For me, the whole message of Christmas is summed up in the title track: ‘The Final Word’. Let’s leave the sentimentality to one side, forget about the peripherals of the presents and food and decorations (all of which I greatly enjoy, lest you think I am anti-Christmas!), and focus on Christ Himself, our offering and sacrifice, ‘manna became Man.’

“You and me, we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

He spoke the incarnation, and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father’s fondest thought took on flesh and bone.
He spoke the living luminous word, at once His will was done.
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard,
Took place in God the Father as he spoke that final Word.

And so the Light became alive and manna became Man.
Eternity stepped into time so we could understand.” (Michael Card, ‘The Final Word’)

Michael Card, ‘The Final Word’