This weekend we undertook an experiment. Like other people, we love to celebrate Christmas with friends and family. Joy and merriment have long claimed a place at Christmastide. Can merriment detract from or reinforce the heart of our Christmas celebration? Can merriment be part of rejoicing in the life and mission of the Savior, Jesus Christ, gathering in the joy? Are worship and merriment compatible? This is not a theoretical question. It is a practical one. Try this experiment.
We brought together a roomful of our friends, giving to each just one request: come prepared to choose a favorite Christmas carol, and briefly explain what makes it a favorite of yours, what it means to you, what it speaks to you. Our plan was then to sing each carol as it was suggested and its meaning described.
That was the core. Not complicated, but it was wonderful. We had refreshments, of course, and there were some instruments (piano, violin, and a ukulele) to add a touch of variety. There were just about a dozen of us, limited by the size of the room.
There were few fancy singers in our group (we did, though, have three music teachers, by chance), still the hardiest and most resilient carols over time seem to lend themselves to voices of all qualities. In the course of two hours we had a memorable mix of worship and merriment that produced a glowing joy in each of us.
For my choice I hearkened back to a theme that I discussed in a blog post three years ago (which you can find here). The “Coventry Carol” is a heart-wrenchingly sad lament of a mother for her baby murdered by the soldiers of the cruel King Herod, jealous of the very rumor of a child born to be King of the Jews. I picked that carol, because to me it reaches directly to the meaning of Christmas, a meaning that was prophesied for thousands of years that would soon have its fulfillment.
Some more foolish than perceptive have complained that God warned Joseph to take his family to Egypt and out of Herod’s reach but did not save the other little children of Bethlehem. They little reflect that the Father did not spare His son, but just postponed the day of His murder. Even more, they miss that by that sacrifice of Jesus on the cross—as innocent then as He was as a baby—He did save all of those little children, and all of us who would receive Him and His sacrifice.
There were other moving stories that evening, briefly told, happily sung. One woman related a carol connected to a letter recently uncovered, authored by the man who would become her father, written in a foxhole at the Battle of the Bulge, sent to the woman who would become his wife and her mother. We sang, “O Come, O Come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”
There was a note from our son, serving a mission in Brazil, who offered a requested carol with a beautiful expression of its meaning, read by his mother. We sang, at his request, “What Child Is This?”
I consider the experiment successful. The influence of the Holy Ghost was present. We experienced the fusion of joy and merriment. To verify the success the experiment needs to be repeated by others. You try it, too, and see whether you can replicate and confirm the results.