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The word haunting comes to mind when I think about the song, “Sanctus II”, by Libera. I came across this tune many years ago; it’s one I’ve probably listened to thirty or forty times over the years—and each time it becomes more and more one of my favorites. The message is mostly a praise sung to the God of the Sabbath. With the word Sanctus is the Latin word for holy. The message is basically: “Holy Lord God Sabbaoth. Heaven and earth are full of glory. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Last Christmas I happened across a musician by the name of Dustin Christensen, the lead singer of Jerrytown, and his performance of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” It wasn’t long before this song became somewhat of an anthem of Christmas for me. In fact, no Christmas since has been complete for me without having listened to it at least once.
Michael W. Smith has been an artist I’ve listened to since I was probably about twelve years old. I’ve loved listening to him throughout the years. It was a few years ago that he came out with a Christmas album entitled, Christmastime. The title track from the album is my favorite on the CD.
I’ve always loved the musical chimes of songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman. A few years ago he released his second Christmas album, and on it was a wonderful song, “All I Really Want for Christmas.” It’s a song about having a place and home during Christmas, and an orphan’s ultimate wish.
Okay, even though I had originally planned on only listing four songs—there is one other which I feel needs to be mentioned, so I will do so. The song is, “Going Home for Christmas”—also by Steven Curtis Chapman. This song has taken on a deeper meaning for me with the onset of the holidays this year. I think the words of the song speak well enough on their own without any additional explanation.
There are certain songs that never fail to choke me up, and Kathy Mattea's version of “Mary Did You Know.” is one of them. It paints such a vivid image of this young girl who literally has no idea of the power she holds in her arms, the covenant and the hope of humanity. What a weight to bear, had she realized the extent of her responsibility to her child. And yet what an incredible honor to be chosen as his mother.
Faith Hill's version of “Where Are You Christmas?” speaks to me because it's such a poignant reminder that we need to be constantly looking for the true spirit of Christmas--not getting caught up it the frenzy of passing things that don't matter.
Celine Dion's version of “O Holy Night” is possibly one of my all-time favorites--it dips and soars and echoes and simply transcends with the rightness of its message: Jesus is born. Celine Dion's voice pays fitting tribute to it. Another favorite, from the same CD, is one she sings with Andrea Bocelli--a man whose voice is as compelling as his eyes are sightless. It's “The Prayer,” a song about seeking wisdom, guidance, and grace--something we all need during not only the Christmas season but at all times.
O Holy Night has long been my favorite of all the Christmas songs, but this version is my absolute favorite. First of all, I love that David Archuleta has such a hard time making decisions. But I especially love how he can just bust this song out so beautifully at the drop of a hat. I wish I could sing like that... only in a more feminine voice, I suppose. This version, unaccompanied, is one of the most beautiful renderings of the song I have ever heard. The lyrics tell the story of the true meaning of Christmas.
I remember hearing Celebrate Me Home as a fairly young child and loving the rhythms and the flow of it. I love that it has the sentiment of a Christmas song but is not always regarded as one. It's a great Christmas road trip song and the lyrics are beautiful.
Little Saint Nick always brings me back to Christmases in California as a teenager when The Beach Boys were one of my favorite groups and I loved to sing along and harmonize with their songs.
The Snow Miser/Heat Miser Songs were the highlight of my Christmas as a child. Every time I hear them I have very vivid memories of my brothers and sister and I watching The Year Without a Santa Claus and then singing these songs for months afterward - along with accompanying dances that we would choreograph which included lots of hip-swaying and hand motions. In a word? Awesome.
In looking over the songs and samplings by my fellow posters, I may not have entered into this Christmas Song activity with the same spirit as everyone else...but whatever. Besides the fact that it is just a catchy tune, I like The Elf's Lament by The Barenaked Ladies because it's just so alternative. I like back stories or alternative stories that explain traditions. Elf's Lament reminds me of those Rakin/Bass claymation specials from my childhood. Remember the elf that wanted to be a dentist? I'll bet he had a lament.
The The Hanukkah Song by Adam Sandler is just a funny quirky song that Adam Sandler presented as a song to help Jewish kids not feel so left-out at Christmas time. I'll bet he never dreamed it would become a Hanukkah standard. Other people are even starting to cover it. I found myself waiting in my car a few days ago equal parts astounded and amused by Neil Diamonds cover of The Hanukkah Song - no kidding. Plus it's always good to know a little something more about Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock (both Jewish).
While I'm feeling a little Jewish let me just say that Nat King Cole is "Like Buttah." And his version of The Christmas Song, you know "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" is hands down the best secular Christmas Song ever recorded.
Back in the pre-cable TV days, Christmas specials were kind of a big deal. There were certain entertainers that had a Christmas Special every year - regular as clockwork. Bing Crosby was one of those and my mom was a big Bing fan and we watched the Bing Crosby Christmas Special every year. I don't remember many of them really, but I clearly remember the special where Bing Crosby sang a duet with David Bowie of all people. This was Christmas of 1977, and maybe I remember it because I was just entering the age when I was starting to form an opinion about what music was cool and what music wasn't. David Bowie was just coming out of his Ziggy Stardust years - I knew that for some reason probably having to do with my older brother's music collection - and I remember thinking, even at 11 years old, how weird it was that this usually-make-up wearing British rock star was singing with Bing Crosby. But it was good. With Bing laying the foundation with Little Drummer Boy and David Bowing adding a counter point with the Peace On Earth lyrics it was and is a compelling combination by two giants of their generations.
Speaking of generations, I like the original 1985 Do They Know it's Christmas? by Band Aid because it was just so much a part of my generation. I can remember watching this event come together as reported on MTV with bands like U2, Duran Duran, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club, Wham! and many others. I recognize that it may have been less about magnanimous charitable urges and more about self promotion for some of the artists involved, but the song made a lot of money for charity and it also set a nice precedent. Genuine motives or not, it actually put a positive spin on the power of celebrity - 'cause what else is it good for?
Happy Holidays from Four Perspectives.