Christmas Songs : Begetter's Log
Katie Foth

Christmas Songs

by Katie Foth on 11/26/21

Back in the 1950s, a mother bundled up her three young children and headed to a downtown bank to pay off a loan. She held her month-old son in her arms as she ushered her little girls into the huge, old-fashioned lobby.

The two- and three-year-old girls stopped and stared, awed by the high ceiling, stretches of shiny marble floors, and the Christmas garlands, shiny baubles, and red bows everywhere. Strains of Christmas music vibrated in the air. Magical!

After completing the transaction, the mother, ever a music-lover, led her little girls to the organ, and they watched the accomplished musician play, fascinated. Hands whizzed over the layered keyboards; feet nimbly skimmed from one pedal to another. Eventually, the organist finished her majestic rendition of "Joy to the World" and a snappy, complicated arrangement of "Go, Tell it on the Mountain." She paused and smiled at the young family. "Do you have a favorite Christmas song?" the organist asked the oldest child.

The little girl ducked her head shyly and refused to look at the organist, so the woman turned to the younger girl, whose big eyes and round face smiled up at her brightly.

"Away in a Manger," the girl piped up with an eager voice.

The organist smiled a plastic smile, not quite pleased with the choice of such a simple song, one often dubbed "Luther's cradle hymn." More a song for a guitar than an organ. Not one of the merry, sophisticated tunes she'd been hired to perform. But--internally she sighed--she had asked, and the child had chosen.

Resigned, the organist turned toward her instrument and played the unadorned classic tune of the lullaby, planning to accommodate the child's request with one mere verse. Her head popped up in surprise when the child began to sing.

The little girl's clear, strong voice echoed throughout the lobby, its sheer innocence and passion rising above the unadorned chords of the organ. No one had told the girl that she couldn't sing along. Why wouldn't she sing her favorite song? Like her mother, she loved music. She loved to sing. Unlike her mother, she had no clue about social rules.

The little girl sang with her whole heart, unaware of the heads that swiveled to watch her, unaware of the held chords at the end of the first verse. She forged on with the second and third. The organist followed.

At the end of the last line, "And take us to heaven to live with Thee there," the child's voice wavered and hung in the air with a note of sadness. The little girl frowned for a moment, then nodded her head in satisfaction. "Thank you!" she said, remembering her manners.

"Yes," the mother added, casting a knowing look at the accomplished organist. "Thank you for your kindness."

I love lots of Christmas songs. "O Come, All Ye Faithful" brings up memories of walking down the aisle of a Lutheran church dressed in my little white "cherub choir" robe holding a candle with its paper wax-catcher. I love the calmness of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and ecstasy of "Joy to the World." I adore the thrilling harmony of "Angels We Have Heard on High" and the exotic charm of "We Three Kings of Orient Are."

I love the treasured sentiment of "The First Noel" and the pure rapture of "O Holy Night." The minor melodies of "What Child is This" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "Mary Did You Know" intrigue me and pull at my heart. And I always loved when James Martin sang, "Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head" in his smooth tenor from the pulpit of the Baptist church.

I adore the cheerful strains of the German hymn, "O Come, Little Children" with its merry soprano descant (which my maternal grandfather wrote down for us) and the bright excitement of the French hymn "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella." I enjoy fun newer Christmas songs for toddlers, like "Oh, What a Special Night!" and "Jump for Joy" (PromiseLand)

But I will always hold a special spot in my heart for "Away in a Manger," whether the classic tune is sung or played, or one of its sweet variants. I remember with fondness teaching my young toddlers the motions. I have no memories of that little girl--just of the story told. But I feel the love of the Savior born on Christmas day, and in my mind and heart, I sing with her.

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