One of my favorite things about Advent and Christmas is the music we get to sing. While our experience of church music has been quite different in 2020, nothing can stop us from singing on our own or listening to our favorite recordings—including those by own choir in this year’s Lessons & Carols services. The joyfulness of the carols may at times seem to clash with the somber realities around us, but as the Anglican luminary Percy Dearmer writes in his introduction to The Oxford Book of Carols, that juxtaposition actually reveals the heart of the Christian Gospel:
“The typical carol gives voice to the common emotions of healthy people in language that can be understood and music that can be shared by all. Because it is popular it is therefore genial as well as simple; it dances because it is so Christian, echoing St. Paul’s conception of the fruits of the Spirit in its challenge to be merry—‘Love and joy come to you.’ Indeed, to take life with real seriousness is to take it joyfully, for seriousness is only sad when it is superficial: the carol is thus all the nearer to the ultimate truth because it is jolly. So, on the one hand, the genius of the carol is an antidote to the levity of much present-day literature, music, and drama, made by men who are afraid to touch the deeper issues of life because seriousness is associated in their minds with gloom; for its jubilant melodies can encircle the most solemn of themes.”
I hope that ‘love and joy come to you’ and your loved ones, no matter how strange this Advent season may seem. God is with us, and the light of Christ will continue to shine in the darkness.