Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 1-5

3 min read

Tinsel or Truth? A Sentiment or A Savior?

Dec 12, 2023 9:01 AM

The power of music cannot be underestimated. Likewise, the power of a story to convey truth is also of great value. The celebration of Christmas represents the Greatest Story Ever Told—a truly meaningful story, the story that changed the course of human history, one that genuinely never grows old--no matter how many times, in how many ways, in so many places, in so many settings, it has been told. “The people that dwelt in darkness have seen a great light.”

The carols of old come from many traditions, including English, French, Polish, American, and others. What is interesting is that, for each of these songs, a reading or singing of all of the stanzas can tell the story from a unique perspective.

As a music teacher who has taught in various settings, I’ve noted that in some instances, many students have little familiarity with many of the traditional Christmas carols as our culture has become increasingly secular. Indeed, many of these carols are sung on Advent Sundays during Christian worship services. They provide beautiful musical settings in which to tell the story. While traditional Christmas carols may also be heard over the radio or in shopping centers, or even at public concert performances, often in public settings, the songs of the holiday tend toward seasonal festivities and lighthearted sentiments, as well as non-religious celebrations of Christmas. Certainly, favorite tunes such as “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and other holiday favorites bring smiles to faces and promote a warm spirit of the season. How can one dispute this holiday spirit?

Believers in Jesus Christ celebrate the birth of the Savior at Christmas time--and what a message of joy and hope amidst darkness it is! This represents a beautiful opportunity to teach, convey, and savor the message of salvation—not only in the world around us but especially to our children. The caution may be that it may be easy to allow the message of Christmas to become focused on “seasonal” traditions, which can eclipse our focus on the fulfillment of thousands of years of biblical prophecy, God’s plan of salvation for mankind, in the miraculous birth of a baby boy some two thousand years ago.

The beautiful thing is that what may have become overly familiar to us is fresh and full of wonder in the eyes of a child. Perhaps that makes a family Christmas morning a time when our hearts could almost explode to participate in our children’s anticipation! Who doesn’t love those first moments of Christmas morning to witness our children’s reactions and surprise as they arise early to discover the gifts left for them under the tree?

May I suggest that the poignant Christmas songs with which we have become so familiar over the years as adults—whether they trend towards the traditional Christmas carols or the lighthearted seasonal favorites- represent an incredible opportunity? While the seasonal holiday favorites bring a smile, the message of Jesus is missing from them, whereas the stanzas of the Christmas carols, which come from many traditions, often depict, in unique perspectives, the breadth of the Christmas story.

Consider the texts of some of these famous carols and how each paints a unique picture of the events of the story of the Nativity. Take some time to listen and discuss the lyrics and the description of the events with your children. Interestingly, many of our Christmas Carols have been composed in just the last 200 or so years.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (1863/1956, Longfellow/Calkin; America)

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night” (1700; Tate/Kirbye; England)

“Silent Night, Holy Night” (1816/1818, Mohr/Gruber; Austria)

“O Holy Night” (Cappeau/Adam, 1843/1847; French; Dwight, English version)

“O Little Town of Bethlehem” (Brooks/Redner, 1868; United States)

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” (Wesley/Mendelssohn, 1850’s; England)

“Angels From the Realms of Glory” (Montgomery, 1816; England)

With so many messages constantly swirling around our children and competing for their attention and affection, let us be encouraged to point our children’s hearts to Christ by actively and intentionally listening, singing, and teaching the joyful message of Christmas through songs that clearly tell the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Don’t allow our children to miss the message--Christmas music that goes beyond sentiment to point to the Savior.

Merry Christmas!

Jacquie Stevanus
Written by Jacquie Stevanus

Jacquie Stevanus is a wife and mom of four grown children and three grandchildren. In addition to over 30 years of full-time ministry with her husband Jim, Jacquie is a violinist, worship musician, and music teacher. She has the joy of investing in students’ lives in the private studio setting and the music and orchestra classroom. Jacquie holds a master’s degree in music education from Kent State University. In addition, Jacquie has written in a freelance capacity, publishing several dozen articles in the areas of ministry, parenting, and human-interest stories. She enjoys baby snuggles, running, and entertaining in her spare time. She greatly enjoys Charles Spurgeon, Elisabeth Elliot, and Pete the Cat.