Music is perhaps the most universal acknowledgement of the transcendent. Every culture in known history has had song and dance as a part of their ceremonies and rituals and celebrations; every person I know has been moved by music at least once in their life.
And we all seem to be aware that there is something more afoot than just clever combinations of notes or a bumpin’ beat – people turn to music when they are at their lowest or when they are happiest, when they have something happening inside of them that they can’t quite seem to express without something higher than human language.
I think of two scenes from movies that demonstrate this: one from The Lord of the Rings, and one from Jerry Maguire.
When the hobbit Pippin was depressed and forced to sing for the entertainment of the steward of Gondor, it’s the only time we hear him sing where it’s not an Irish-sounding drinking tune.
It’s beautiful, and it’s sad. It seems to express exactly what Pippin was feeling.
Then I think of Jerry Maguire, when his career has just been resurrected and he’s trying to find the right song to sing in the car to release the joy building up inside him. Finally, he comes across some Petty (can’t go wrong there!).
The point is, we all know how music is more than just words and notes. It’s something bigger, something deeper, something otherwise-inexpressible.
The last thing Jesus does before leaving the Last Supper is sing a Passover hymn. He was a good Jew and would have appreciated the value of music. There’s a reason we praise Him with song. There’s a reason there’s a whole book of the Bible entitled “The Song of Songs”. There’s a reason the psalms are the most beloved of all Scripture (sans the Gospels).
Song is the laughter of the Holy Spirit.
This is why it is only fitting that Christmas has its own music. What else can we do in the face of the Incarnation? What else could we do to even begin to approach this mystery, to respond to this Divine madness?
We have only music.
And for all those despairing of the “Death of Christmas” with the Happy Holidays greetings and Santa-culture worship, let us remember this:
Every person in the world has been evangelized in the last few weeks.
I leave you with another video. It is a rendition of “O Holy Night” from the T.V. show “The Voice”. There is great hope, immense hope, in the thought that everyone from Christina Aguilara to the despairing television addict glued to their tube heard these words, this good news…the Gospel itself:
O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope: the weary world rejoices!
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees;
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine!
O night when Christ was born!