With Advent season coming to its end with the culmination of Christmas this week, my music rotation is heavily influenced by my favorite Christmas Carols. My favorite song that lends itself to a full ethereal chamber choir is, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and one of my favorite renditions is Robert Shaw’s SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) chorale.
The song fully encapsulates what to Christians the season is all about. The prophet Isaiah, foretelling the miracle of Christ’s birth discusses the significance of the immaculate conception when he states, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) Immanuel, one of the many names given to Jesus, means, “God with us” and this is a central tenet of the Christian faith. The fleshly body of Christ and his birth on earth is the beginning of the bridge between imperfect man and a perfect God. Indeed, the song’s lyrics point to this day of ransom payment for Israel with Christ’s birth. The body of Christ that dwelt amongst us is the critical element of the community of Christ. As Bonhoeffer states in The Cost of Discipleship, “A prophet and a teacher would not need followers, but only students and listeners. But the incarnate Son of God who took on human flesh does need a community of followers who not only participate in his teaching but also in his body. It is thus in the body of Christ that the disciples have community. They live and suffer in bodily community with Jesus. By being in community with the body of Jesus they are placed under the burden of the cross. For in that body they are all borne and accepted.”
Also heavy in my Christmas rotation is Bing Crosby’s medley “What Child is This/The Holly and the Ivy“. Crosby is the indisputable king of the Christmas Carol, and I don’t believe it is a point even up for debate. If people can add the Magi to the nativity scene, even though most scholars indicate that they would have arrived years after Christ’s birth, then I am tempted to put a singing Bing Crosby with his heavenly baritone and his effortless lilt into my own nativity scene. I am typically not a big fan of medleys, but this is Bing Crosby combining two of my favorites together and I can’t resist hearing it over and over this time of year.
Lastly and in a departure from the Christmas music, I picked up “Thieves” from She & Him while listening to one of my favorite syndicated radio shows Undercurrents this week. This song satisfies my proclivity for melancholy and sad songs about heartbreak. She & Him is comprised of the celebrity Zooey Deschanel and the less famous but adored in the Indie Rock and hipster scenes M. Ward. The opening lines from Deschanel’s unique and powerful vocals that sounds like a voice that I imagine as perfect for a traveling troupe performing ballads across the Old West sets the pace for the heartache that echoes throughout the tune:
“There’s thieves among us
Painting the walls
With all kinds of lies, and lies
I never told it all
What’s in my pocket?
You never knew
You didn’t know me well
So well, as I knew you”
The common refrain throughout the song is a woeful,
“And I know, and you know too
That a love like ours is terrible news
But that wont stop me crying
No, that wont stop me crying over you”
M. Ward provides great harmony is this song as well. The video is artistic and worth the watch as well.