12 Days of Christmas (Carols) Day Something More: Do You Hear What I Hear? Songs of Protest
Apparently Christmas carols are peace and anti-war songs far more frequently than I could have possibly imagined just a few days ago.
I mean some are obvious. The original — the Magnificat. Or, you know… like, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s "Happy Xmas (War is Over).” But those are hardly the outliers.
As I’ve written about earlier, O Holy Night inspired the French cause for freedom against tyrannical monarchies and an uncaring priestly class; translated into English, it stirred an American consciousness as an anti-slavery anthem; singing the song on a Christmas Eve during World War I made soldiers “unfit for war” and; it braved the airwaves during the Cold War reminding a world of peace born this time of year.
But this week, I’ve also come to learn that both “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas” are protests written to evoke melody and harmony over war and bitter conflict.
And, it turns out, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was written in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis as a plea for Christ’s reign of peace here and now.
Christmas Songs get this reputation, as they play over and over and over and over and over on KOST 103.5, for being simple little adorable happy songs.
But really, I’m learning they are these enduring songs of protests.
Raging against a world that would set nuclear weapons against people.
Raging against a world that would enslave their brothers.
Raging against a world that would needlessly invade their neighbors.
Come, these songs say, look to the night sky. A sky we all share. Look to the stars. Stars that we all see.
Listen, these songs say, listen to to the wind or to the angels or to the lamb or ox or to shepherd boys.
A child, a child, is shivering in the night…a fragile child who has come to bring us goodness and light. A whole new fragile way of peacefully living in the weary world. A way that saves our souls.
Pray for peace, pray for peace for people everywhere.
Listen again to these songs. Do you hear what I hear?
Here's Whitney Houston's version of the song, because it's what I grew up listening to and because well, she was awesome.