Scripture readings for this Sunday (Holy Innocents):
Jeremiah 31:15–17; Psalm 124; 1 Corinthians 1:26–29; Matthew 2:13-18
Why does the vicar dislike singing Christmas songs during Advent? Well, actually he doesn’t!
It all depends upon what the song says. Listening to the words shows that some are songs of anticipation, and really do fit within Advent (although what is anticipated in secular music is all too often material rather than spiritual).
But most of our Christmas carols, and some secular songs, are about celebrating what has happened: the birth of the Christ child, and deserve to be sung not before Christmas, nor just for a day (or only in Christmas carols and lessons services), but for the whole twelve days of the Christmas season.
After all, Christmas, the joyful celebration of Christ coming into the world, merits more than just a day.
But as we celebrate our twelve days of Christmas, of incarnation, we are abruptly reminded that the world into which Christ came, and comes, is not always a very nice place. The twelve days of Christmas are littered not with partridges in pear trees, gold rings and ladies dancing, but with martyrs and murdered children.
It is a reminder that Christ comes into a world of suffering and trouble – which is why, of course, Christ needed to come. The baby in the crib and the man on the cross are directly linked. The death of the children of Bethlehem anticipated many other deaths, including the death of the one who least deserved to die.
Yet through all the darkness of sin and sadness, the light of God’s love shines, in the form of Christ’s love for us, and will not be overcome by darkness. And that is something worth celebrating, in song and in life, for the full season of twelve days and beyond!