I love Christmas carols. So far I've only found one of our Christmas cds--Steven Curtis Chapman; and though I like it, I've played it now until I really want to play others before I go back to it; I think that's part of why I have a hard time really feeling like it's Christmas yet this year. One of my main memories of Christmas growing up in a non-Christian household was lying on my back next to the stereo and playing Christmas records--sometimes over and over again in rapid succession, to the chagrin of my mother--and I knew the songs by heart. From these songs, the Christmas story was the story I was most familiar with in the Bible before I ever read it.
Of course there were assumptions in some of the songs, like that there were three kings, when actually there were three gifts and who knows how many kings (or Magi). There were no donkeys mentioned in the Bible story (and being a mother I can say I can't imagine riding one for miles just before delivery; I'd rather waddle). I've heard it likely wasn't really winter, because the shepherds were out with their sheep on the hills, which happened only in the warmer months. But overall, the songs paint a very sweet and quiet picture of that time (leaving out, of course, Herod and his bloodthirst), for the most part fairly accurate.
I remember also being a bit mystified, intrigued, by the last stanzas of two songs--O Little Town of Bethlehem and Away in a Manger. These shared the gospel as well as anything I ever heard in my childhood: "O Holy Child of Mary, descend to us we pray; cast out our sins and enter in, be born in us today; We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel." And then, somewhat less clearly, "Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me I pray; bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to heaven to live with Thee there."
In those days the Christian Christmas songs were pretty much the norm; these days, I can go shopping, hear Christmas songs everywhere and never hear any of the Christmas story. I remember a little friend of Katie's hearing our songs on the player, and saying, "Why don't you have any of the real Christmas songs?" What she wanted were the secular ones like Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman.
So I love the real real Christmas songs; I want to play them constantly during this season. If I could only find my cds! I don't know where they got off to, but I'm going to continue the search. I'm thankful to the writers of those great songs. Who knows but it might have predisposed me to be receptive to the gospel when the time came.