A great difficulty with contemporary celebrations of Christmas is the misconception of the events and timing of the birth of Jesus. This occurs even among Christians Believers, particularly in Western cultures. The problem? The prevailing concept that Christmas climaxes on a singular date: December 25.
Yes, there are further celebrations of Christ’s birth in assorted denominations – the 13 days of Christmas continuing through the Epiphany in Catholic and related congregations; and the remembrance in the Orthodox Church observed January 7, or 12 days after the “traditional” Christmas.
However, if you look around, come December 26, “the Christmas spirit” begins dissipating. Observe three tendencies: the urgency to remove decorations; the rush to return gifts; the reduction of Christmas songs in public. Even the most earnest pastors and worship music leaders may wonder how many weekends after December 25 should the congregation continue singing “Christmas” songs in Services of Worship.
The transitional songs of the Kingdom Impact Theater production “Carol Story” belie the idea that Christmas music should go away immediately after December 25. Indeed, a number of Christmas selections build on the concept of evangelizing – that is, telling others the Good News of salvation through Messiah’s birth. Lyrics of three carols, “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” and “I Wonder as I Wander,” can be viewed as tools in the on-going witnessing concept first noted here in “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” Taken as a whole, these lyrics should remind Christ-followers that the birth of the baby was the beginning of the Christmas story, not its conclusion, and their a responsibility to share this information.
LEARN MORE:Donate and Partner with Kingdom Impact Theater.
To grasp this idea, it’s necessary to review the scriptural timeline of the Christmas narrative rather than Hallmark cards. The Biblical story recorded in Luke Chapter 2 indicates that Jesus was born at night. So, unlike us who often open presents at the crack of dawn, Mary and Joseph’s gift of parenthood didn’t arrive until nightfall … at the END of the day.
(Jesus wasn’t swaddled in cloths on Christmas Eve, either, for it didn’t exist yet. Though we’ll give some allowances for a right-after-midnight arrival, meaning the shepherds COULD have been stirred by middle-of-the-night celestial viewings).
By the time the shepherds saw the stars and singing angels, and walked (or ran) to see this thing, arriving at the manger took time. And it wasn’t the same evening as the three visitors from the East recorded in Matthew Chapter, whose account of the Wise Men’s arrival likely was two years later.
Indeed, for point of conversation, it’s possible that the Wise Men’s encounter with King Herod was less about the birth itself, but as a result of what occurred afterwards:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. —Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, Verses 15:18 (New International Version)
Three things did happen that night that continue in today’s Christmas season: 1) people came to worship the child, believing the Old Testament (Hebrew) prophecies were fulfilled after 500 years; 2) witnesses went and told others the significance of the child’s birth; 3) others came to discover for themselves, and began to ask questions.
This worship and investigation led to the wonderfully imagined nativity scenes which decorate our landscapes and homes. However, these are a composite of what happened over time, not on the night of, Hallmark notwithstanding.
Three songs in the middle passage of “Carol Story” capture this sense of “shepherds’ telephone line” that inspired the crowds to visit Bethlehem and ponder what occurred. Their lyrics inspired a poetic encounter between the shepherds heading to the manger and the people they meet on the way to Bethlehem. Those people, like us, have questions.
“Shepherds, why this jubilee…?”
“Angels we have heard on high…”
“Come, all ye faithful! Join the triumph of the skies!”
(Sotto voice): “I wonder, as I wander…”— Songs Lyrics, adapted in “Carol Story”
The questioning lyrics come from a latter-day carol from Appalachia, representing a person curious about the possibility the newborn babe could be the prophesied savior, while at the same time questioning one’s own belief in Christ during a time of crisis, period. Questioning occurs even among those who have heard the scriptures for years. Ask a teenager, as we discovered at a high school dinner party years ago.
LEARN MORE: The Virgin Shall Be With Child, Really?
The story of how this folk carol from rural 1930s America came to be a beloved Christmas witness is its own miracle. The accompanying video, a live performance by Vanessa Williams, maintains the reflective intimacy of the lyrics despite an orchestra accompaniment.
VIDEO MOMENT: “I Wonder as I Wander,” captured in revival after jail
That solitude is contrasted by the acappella power of Italy’s SoundDiva Classical Choir whose harmonies in the French carol “Angels We Have Heard on High,” are a scaled-down version of how the Heavenly Host may have sounded singing, “Gloria! In excelsis Deo,” (“Glory to God in the Highest!” Which is echoed as “Carol Story” some to its climax (in days to come).
DISCIPLE SOMEONE: “Angels We Have Heard On High,” A French carol anglicized
The idea of inviting people to Christ, and musically sharing the gospel door-to-door and outside church buildings, is captured in the remarkable violin-driven flash-mob “O Come All Ye Faithful,” by The Five Strings. This relatively new video reached the Kingdom Impact Theater offices via a friend’s private social messenger as a Christmas greet to be shared. And so, we do. Here. Interspersed with James Chadwick’s translated lyrics of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” are a wonderful interview dialogue: A question asked, a story told, an invitation made to join. Heading to Bethlehem, we imagine they encounter a new curious fellow: a little drummer boy.
SoundDiva Classical Choir
SoundDiva is actually a production studio in Italy that’s dedicated to improving the quality and production. The assembled choir in this video is directed by Antonello Martina for part of a series demonstrating the work quality by the studio.
LEARN MORE: SoundDiva Recordings.
The Five Strings
The Five Strings are a performing family band from Utah. The band is made up of 5 siblings, ranging in ages from 8-18. The Five Strings’ high energy concerts showcase eight different instruments including violin, piano, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, percussion, five-part harmonies, clogging, and choreography.
LEARN MORE: The Five Strings YouTube Channel.
Vanessa L. Williams is an American singer, actress, and fashion designer. She initially gained recognition as the first woman of African-American descent to receive the Miss America title in 1983. Since then her critically acclaimed work in film, television, music and Broadway has been recognized by every major industry award affiliate including 4 Emmy nominations, 11 Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination, 3 SAG award nominations, 7 NAACP Image Awards and 3 Satellite Awards. She often performs in the Rob Mathes Holiday Concert, from which this clip was recorded.
LEARN MORE: Vanessa Williams’ autobiography.