Santa Baby

Walk into a music store, and you'll find out what passes for Christmas music these days--or, as the modern vernacular puts it, "the sounds of the season." One recording features rap artists Snoop Doggy Dog and Salt ‘n' Pepa crooning "Santa Baby." Then there's pop diva Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas Is You"--and I doubt Ms. Carey was referring to the Lord. Perhaps strangest of all is the holiday music of RuPaul, a 7-foot-tall transvestite who warbles "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Drag Queen." Ho. Ho. Ho. Music has always been central to our celebration of Christmas. But if we want to find music that will help us appreciate the significance of the manger, we need to seek out music inspired by the manger--like the classic Christmas carols. The principal difference between ditties like "Santa Baby" and the classic carols is that the carols grew out of a culture shaped by Christianity--and they express the Christian message of Christmas. As a result, these carols impart a devotional sensibility completely missing from today's Christmas music. Consider for example, the sixteenth-century carol "Quem Pastores Laudavere," which means "Whom the Shepherds Praised." This carol first describes the humble scene around the manger. But then it also tells us what this scene means and what our response should be: "To Christ the King, God made man // Given to us through Mary,// Let there resound as is truly fitting // Praise, Honor, and Glory." Another old carol that urges us to do more than "rock around the Christmas tree" is the sixteenth-century Spanish folk carol, "riu, riu, chiu." The carol tells the story of how God's plan for our salvation was protected from Satan's interference. The title is the shepherds' cry of victory. In response to God's gracious gift, the carol tells us, "now that we have gained what we desired, let us all go and present him our gifts, // let us all present our wills // to the One who was willing to come to Earth and be our equal." We hear lively Spanish rhythms as shepherds call to one another. This music does more than lighten our spirits. It inspires hearts that are grateful for the incredible act of love that was the Incarnation. Read the rest of this special series on Christmas music. You'll learn about music that can help us move beyond "Santa Baby" to a deeper appreciation of the meaning behind the manger. The carols mentioned in this commentary are from the CD The Carol Album, featuring the Tavener Consort, produced by EMI Records.


Chuck Colson


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