Well underway into the 2017 Christmas season, I’m sure we’ve all heard our favorite carols being sung. While some of our favorites might be silly— does anyone actually want a hippopotamus for Christmas? Imagine the mess! There are some Christmas songs that actually have a deeper meaning and help us as Catholics enter more deeply into this joyful season. Last week we featured “Silent Night”, and how its humble origins provide a reminder to us all that God calls us each to greatness. This week we are looking at another classic carol: “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
Written in 1841 by Frederick Oakeley, the song has stood the test of time and is still a very popular tune. Aside from the catchy melody, the lyrics of “O Come All Ye Faithful” are, perhaps, what has led to the song’s success. The clear call to action to come praise and worship the Lord is made clear in the first few lines:
O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of Angels!
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord
Whereas secular Christmas music may revolve around gifts and the material elements of the season, this song reminds us all of what we’re truly celebrating: Christ coming down to Earth. May this song serve as a reminder to us all to spend this season praising God and thanking Him for the greatest gift of all: His son Jesus Christ. Listen to the full song below and reflect on the coming of Christ this season.
We’ve all heard the classic Christmas carol “Silent Night.” Whether it’s on the radio, in the background of a movie, or sung at Mass, the song is one of the most popular Christmas carols to date. But why? Why has this song, which is so simple and so humble, made such a large impact in not just the Christian world, but also in the secular world? Let’s take a closer look at the song and its origins to find out.
Silent Night was written by Joseph Mohr in 1816. He was a young priest living in Austria who had written the lyrics down in the form of a poem one evening. It wasn’t until 1818 when Mohr would show the lyrics to his friend Franz Gruber, who happened to be a musician-schoolteacher, that a melody accompanying lyrics began to take form. It was Christmas Eve of that same year that the song was performed for the first time. After this first performance, word of the song spread rapidly, growing in popularity along the way. In fact, the Strasser Family, a traveling family of folk singers (similar to the Trapp family singers as seen in The Sound of Music) incorporated the song into their routine. By 1832 the notes had been tweaked to create the melody that we all know and love today.
While there is certainly more history surrounding this beloved song, the true significance of the song comes from the lyrics and creation itself. Mohr and Gruber were by no means famous. They were humble people who lived ordinary lives. They didn’t expect for their simple song to be as popular as it ended up being. They didn’t expect fame or recognition for their efforts. They simply sought a way to better praise and worship the Lord during the season of Advent. Isn’t that something we should all strive for?
Take a moment to listen to this carol. Really listen to the words, think about the message Mohr and Gruber so carefully expressed to the world. Think of what seemingly ordinary acts God is calling you to do. You might be surprised with His answer.
Life is hard—there’s no question. Whether it’s small day-to-day struggles, or major traumatic experiences such as losing a loved one, this world can be a confusing place. We may wonder why our God, who is all loving and benevolent, would allow such strife to happen. While we may never know these answers, what we do know is this world is not our final destination, but rather a stop on the road to God’s eternal kingdom. The popular Christian music group Building 429 addresses this topic in their song ,“Where I Belong.” Let’s take a closer look at this song and how we can all relate to its powerful message!
The song begins by describing the unique sensation of distance between body and soul:
Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing but am I alive?
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find
The singer exposes a questioning attitude that we’ve all experienced at some point. What does it mean to be alive in this world? Why are there so many questions that can’t be answered? What is the purpose of all this ambiguity? As the chorus winds up, we are given the poetic answer:
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
The reason why this world is so confusing is because it is not our final home. We are only visiting. Our actual and eternal home is with Jesus Christ, and only with His help can we begin to understand the intricate and complex workings of life as we know it. This may seem overwhelming, but let it be of comfort. We are not supposed to understand everything in this world—not yet. If you find yourself struggling with feelings of doubt or discouragement, let this song serve as a source of hope and encouragement. One day we will be reunited with our heavenly Father, who will take away all our pain, confusion, and trouble.
Take some time to listen to the rest of the song below!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
I’m sure we’ve all recited this passage at one point or another in times of great stress. It doesn’t matter how kind you are, how selfless you are, or even how faithful you are– no one is immune to the pain that life brings. Suffering can be hard to comprehend at times– why would God, who is supposed to love us, put us in so much pain? What purpose does suffering serve in His plan? Why is it necessary?
We can turn to scripture (such as the verse above) to help guide us on our search for answers, but in the end it all comes down to trusting God and His will for our lives. Hillary Scott and the Scott Family use their music to address topics such as this. Their song “Thy Will” has grown to be incredibly popular, expressing the pain and desperation so many of us have felt throughout our lives.
I’m so confused I know I heard you loud and clear So, I followed through Somehow I ended up here
This first verse is applicable to so many of us who listened closely to God, who remained faithful and devoted to Him– yet still experienced pain and suffering. It’s these instances that are the hardest to understand. How could following God lead us astray? Hillary expresses this confusion saying:
I don’t wanna think I may never understand That my broken heart is a part of your plan When I try to pray All I’ve got is hurt and these four words
Often, when we are going through a painful experience we feel distant from God. We may even be angry that He let something so awful happen to us. As Hillary so openly reveals, we may never understand the reasoning behind God’s will. But that’s why we have faith. The chorus of the song, taken directly from the Our Father, is a repeated reminder of the foundation of the Catholic faith– having full trust in God’s will and not our own:
Thy will be done Thy will be done Thy will be done
Take some time to listen to the song. Read the lyrics and reflect on your own experiences.
Winnipeg native Amanda Cook is an award-winning and incredibly popular modern Christian artist. Her rich history as a worship leader and deep devotion to Christ inspire her to write songs that provide her listeners with encouragement, strength, and hope. Her most recent song, “Pieces” has become an instant hit. Let’s take a closer look at the message Cook is trying to convey through her meaningful music.
Cook sings of the passion of God’s love; a love that is genuine, powerful, and proud:
Unreserved, unrestrained Your love is wild, Your love is wild for me It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed Your love is proud to be seen with me
Chorus: You don’t give Your heart in pieces You don’t hide Yourself to tease us
The chorus is another great testimony to the Lord’s love, as Cook reminds us that His love is all encompassing. He does not fraction his love, but rather gives each of his children all of his love and attention. As our heavenly Father and ultimate creator, He has the ability to completely pour all of his love into each and every one of us, which is an amazing thing! Even though we may not be able to see our heavenly Father as we do with the people we love on Earth, Cook reminds us that this inability to see God isn’t meant to taunt us or discourage us—but rather to motivate us to focus on our faith and spiritual connection to Him.
Take some time to listen to the rest of the song. As you listen, be reminded of God’s unfailing love for you. Never forget that no matter what happens in your life, you are unbelievably and undeniably loved.
Waco, Texas seems to be the hub for influential Christians. If you’re a fan of HGTV, you probably are familiar with Chip and Joanna Gains who also hail from the southern state. However, the dynamic design duo aren’t the only people using their talents to spread God’s message. Studying at Baylor University in Waco, David Crowder realized that while Baylor was a Christian university, the majority of students did not attend church. Crowder took several steps to try and reverse the trend, including becoming a worship leader and writing—you guessed it—uplifting Christian songs. Crowder’s dedication to Christ at such a young age launched him into a career in the Christian music industry, where he remains to be a top-charting artist to this day. Let’s take a look at one of his most popular songs “Come as You Are.”
“Come as You Are” is the ultimate anthem for anyone who is hurting emotionally or spiritually. Crowder sings about being at your lowest point and realizing that you need help: Come out of sadness From wherever you’ve been Come broken hearted Let rescue begin Come find your mercy Oh sinner come kneel
As the first verse ends, Crowder reminds us of our temporary placement on Earth, and how we should focus on heavenly forces saying:
Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t heal Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t heal
By the time the chorus winds up, Crowder has taken all those who are listening into a complete state of surrender—encouraging everyone to “come home” to Christ: So lay down your burdens Lay down your shame All who are broken Lift up your face Oh wanderer come home You’re not too far So lay down your hurt Lay down your heart Come as you are
Crowder reminds us all that Christ is the only one who can relieve us from our sadness, our guilt, our shame. When things seem so hopeless and you have nowhere to go or no one else to turn to, God is there waiting with open arms to accept you. Even with your flaws, your mistakes, and your scars– God treasures you. It’s never too late to come back to Christ and let him work in your life. Take some time to listen to the full song—you might learn more about yourself and your relationship with Christ than you think!
Debuting her first album “Plumb” in 1997, Tiffany Lee is no stranger to the Christian music scene. Having sold over 500,000 albums, and touring across the country, her music is well known by anyone who tunes into Christian radio. Her single “Need you now” is her most popular song to date, and for obvious reasons. The intensity and pure desperation portrayed in the song is an audible mirror—causing listeners to acknowledge their own reliance and dependence on God. Let’s take a closer look at this song that has remained at the top of the charts for over 5 years!
Here’s a peak at the first verse: Well, everybody’s got a story to tell And everybody’s got a wound to be healed I want to believe there’s beauty here ‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on I can’t let go, I can’t move on I want to believe there’s meaning here
This first verse does a great job of highlighting how unique each person is; we each have “a story to tell.” Even more so, we all have unique struggles, or problems that we must learn to bring to the Lord. Only he can “heal our wounds” as the song suggests. Lee sings about the hardship of finding the goodness in the struggle, meaning in the suffering. She talks about being too tired to hold on, but how she can’t let go—something that is all too relatable. Often when we find ourselves in stressful situations, we try desperately to find the solutions ourselves instead of passing our worries onto the Lord. Imagine how much time and worry we would save if we immediately cast our cares to God? As the chorus winds up, Lee reminds us how reliant we are on God, who is the ONLY one who can solve our problems.
How many times have you heard me cry out “God please take this?” How many times have you given me strength to Just keep breathing? Oh I need you God, I need you now
This very raw and emotional chorus conveys so much—fear, anger, sadness, reliance, and even hope. Lee strips down her pride, and shows us all what it’s like to completely surrender to God’s will. “I need you” is repeated over and over again, not just in the chorus, but throughout the whole song, reinforcing the idea of God’s supreme yet merciful control. Take some time today to listen to the complete song, and after take some time reflect on what you can offer up to God.
It’s no secret that music has the ability to change and affect our mood. Whether it’s listening to a happy song to raise your spirits or playing a sentimental song to remember someone, the power of music in undeniable. Even more so, the type of music we surround ourselves with can have a huge impact. As followers of Christ, living in the world we do, we have the amazing opportunity to surround ourselves with music praising and worshiping God. Not only that, but there are literally THOUSANDS of Christian artists and bands just waiting to be discovered. If only there was a way to learn more about Christian music…
The Catholic Cemeteries Association will feature Christian songs on our blog with our new segment: Meaningful Music. Keep reading for this week’s song!
Alive Again- Matt Maher
Matt Maher has been in the Christian music industry for nearly a decade. His uplifting and praise-filled songs reflect the joy of Christ’s love while still maintaining a healthy reverence, and his mixture of more classic and conservative songs with ones that reflect modern music trends make him popular across a wide variety of people. One of his most popular songs, Alive Again, is a true testimony to life-giving power Christ has—let’s take a closer look at some of the lyrics:
The song starts with Maher singing:
I woke up in darkness surrounded by silence Oh where, where have I gone? I woke to reality losing its grip on me Oh where, where have I gone?
Maher reflects something all of us have felt at some point in our lives—lost, distant, alone. We are surrounded, in many ways, by a very secular culture. Because of this, it’s easy to lose ourselves to things other than Christ and Maher isn’t afraid to address this symbolic spiritual death. “Where have I gone?” is repeated, highlighting the desperation and confusion that we experience when our relationship with Christ is broken. However, Maher doesn’t hover on this too long before bringing up the healing power of Christ by saying;
‘Cause I can see the light before I see the sunrise
You called and You shouted Broke through my deafness Now I’m breathing in and breathing out I’m alive again
You shattered my darkness Washed away my blindness Now I’m breathing in and breathing out I’m alive again
Maher is able to communicate so much in these 9 lines. First, Maher reminds us that before we can “see the sun rise” we must first “see the light.” In other words, when we find ourselves in darkness, we must turn to Christ first, who is the eternal light of the world, before we can hope to pull ourselves out of the darkness of sin. Christ alone can help us break free from whatever is taking us away from God. As the chorus continues, Maher outlines how Christ continues to fight against the walls we put up between ourselves and God. He depicts Christ as a warrior of sorts, constantly fighting to free us and make us all “alive again.”
If you have time, listen to the full song. It is packed with the uplifting knowledge that Christ will not abandon us, even in our darkest times, and reminds us that Christ is here to fight for us and give us the chance of eternal life.