As we count down the days till Christmas, and Christmas carols fill our homes, malls, and radio stations, I’m astounded at the songs we all listen to. So I’ll post short “meditations” on the history, theology (if any) and music of these songs. Some good, some bad, some outright ugly, like this one called “Sippin’ in Seattle’s Latteland” (a parody of “Winter Wonderland”):
Sip your shots yuppy dreamers
As you cruise in your Bimmers
A latte tonight with a look that’s just right
Crusing in Seattle’s Latteland.
Because Seattle is one of my favorite cities (but not the Seahawks), and Starbucks is not all that bad, I like listening to this song.
Another ugly—and mean—Christmas song is this one from 1979 by a couple from San Francisco (although it makes me laugh every time):
Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and grandpa we believe.
She’d been drinking too much eggnog,
And we begged her not to go.
But she forgot her medication, and she
Staggered out the door into the snow.
When we found her Christmas morning,
At the scene of the attack,
She had hoof-prints on her forehead,
And incriminating Claus marks on her back.
I’ve warned all my friends and neighbors
Better watch out for yourselves,
They should never give a license
To a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves.
The Bad (Theologically)
“Away in a Manger” is one of the most beloved songs of Christmas, because of its image of a cuddly baby in a manger. But is it Christian? The first two verses were first published in 1884 by the Universalist Publishing House in Boston, Massachusetts. The publisher claimed that it was first composed by Martin Luther with the title “Cradle Song,” but this claim has been largely debunked. The third stanza, “Be near me, Lord Jesus” was first printed in (Charles’) Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs in 1892.
The song is romantic, and the second stanza is particularly interesting:
The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.
Because Jesus is divine, he doesn’t cry even as a baby. The writer of these words might be thinking that a crying baby is too human.
The next two lines are even stranger than the first two:
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my side, ‘til morning is nigh.
Like a sky-god, Jesus looks down from the sky, watching the world “from a distance,” as Bette Midler chimes.
Just think about the songs that you’ll be singing in your worship services and fellowships this Christmas season.