It’s October, which means I’m getting taunting texts and Facebook messages from friends who are starting their season of listening to Christmas carols.
If you groaned when you read that insane sentence, this post is for you. If you guiltily turned down the volume on the Mannheim Steamroller version of “Little Drummer Boy” to keep reading…this post is also for you. (You may not know how desperately you need it.)
Now, please don’t read this in a spirit of judgment. I just want to show, using Scripture, why God wants you to save the caroling for December, or at the very earliest, after Thanksgiving.
Let’s start with the biggest musical collection in the Bible: the book of Psalms. They cover a wide range of topics: helping the people of God to join in corporate worship to thank the Lord for deliverance and favor, repent of sin, and extol praises. All that to say—a season of thanksgiving is critical to our spiritual life, and is often neglected when we move too quickly to Christmas (often cluttered with all kinds of commercial baggage).
Are there songs about Christ’s birth? Sure. Mary’s song of praise is a lovely example, and you could argue that John 1 is an example of a poetic tribute to Jesus’ coming. But notice that they are kept in their place: Scripture sings about Jesus’s birth…when specifically and purposefully telling about Jesus’ birth, which we take time to do in December.
If you need further evidence, take a look at Colossians 3:15-17, “And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
As you can see, this passage about singing starts with, contains, and ends with references to thanksgiving. How many times do you see a reference to the nativity, stars, angels, baby Jesus, or anything else associated with Christmas carols? (Hint: none. Okay, fine, that wasn’t a hint, it was an answer, but I couldn’t chance you trying to tell me the word “rule” made you think of the Wise Men or something.)
Furthermore, in the gospel of Luke, the traditional Christmas story read in services and quoted in Charlie Brown takes up 93 verses, out of a total of 1151 in the book. (And that’s if you’re generous and include the prophecy to Mary before the birth of Jesus in the count.) This is almost exactly 1/12 of the book. Coincidence? I think not. If even the most extensive gospel account only gives 1/12 of its time to celebrating Jesus’s birth, we should divide our time and attention accordingly: one month out of twelve.
Am I saying that it’s not appropriate to thank God for the incarnation at other times of the year? Of course not.
But Christmas carols are written for a particular season, and while the time they are to be sung isn’t canonical, it should still be respected. To do otherwise would be taking them out of the context they were intended for, which creates disconnect. After all, you wouldn’t want to take David’s private prayers for vengeance against his enemies and read them as prayers for the church or read Song of Solomon out loud in kids’ ministry. Poetry in particular has an intended context that’s as much a part of the meaning as the words themselves. Christmas carols taken out of the season set aside for the celebration of Christ’s birth become annoying at best and devoid of meaning at worst.
I haven’t even listed for you the scores of arguments from church history, or appealed to you with common sense, but I’d urge you to do more research into those areas as well. The weight of evidence against out-of-season Christmas carols is overwhelming.
I will close with the thoughts of our esteemed friend C.S. Lewis on the subject: “Long before December 25th everyone is worn out…They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.” If even Lewis got sick of celebrating long before the day of celebration, why should we think any differently?
As it says in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its time” (emphasis mine).
If you are still reading this, you are either really amused by my reasoning or wondering if there’s actually a point to this post.
And there is. To write this, I started with the premise in the title and found whatever I could in the Bible to back it up. I changed the meanings of verses just slightly and always cut them away from their original contexts. I shoved irrelevant statistics and Christianese in the cracks to make the point I wanted, and then found a famous Christian who agreed with me to cap things off. (Because who wants to disagree with C.S. Lewis?)
To clarify, I still think it’s silly to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but it’s certainly not anti-biblical, and the reasons I gave were…sketchy at best.
Hopefully, you laughed your way through it, because the topic was so ridiculous. But this is your friendly reminder that it’s possible to back up a bogus position with the Bible in a way that isn’t always so obvious.
Watch for it. Ask questions. Don’t nod along with everything you hear or read without discernment, or you might find yourself agreeing with something that isn’t actually true.
And don’t listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Seriously.