At a church I used to serve, we distinguished clearly between Advent and Christmas. In Advent we sang Advent hymns. Pretty much only Advent hymns. Which means we didn’t start singing Christmas carols until everyone else was sick of them.
There’s a good liturgical and biblical rationale for delaying Christmas carol gratification, although if you’re someone who never gets sick of singing carols, there’s not an argument in the world that will sway you.
But maybe this will—it’s just safer to wait.
If you sing carols too long, you might start paying attention to the words. If you do, you’ll have questions. Take those lyrics about “mild mother Mary.” How many mothers do you know who are mild, with screaming infants at the breast?
There are other dangers too, such as the invention of goofy lyrics. Sing carols enough and someone is bound to wreck them for you. Remember that old chestnut, “Good King Windshield Glass”? And surely you know “While shepherds washed their socks…”
While shepherds washed their socks by night,
all seated round the tub,
the Angel of the Lord came down
and gave them all a scrub.
We used to drive the nuns crazy with this one:
We three Kings of Orient are
puffing on a rubber cigar.
It was loaded. It exploded.
We two Kings…
And so on. That’s the American version, by the way. In Liverpool they sing about underwear that sells for two pence a pair in Hamilton Square—So fantastic! No elastic! Not very safe to wear. And not very safe to sing…
Yep, it’s just less risky to restrict carol-singing to the brief Christmas season. Unless, of course, you know that neither Advent nor Christmas is about being safe. Unless, of course, you know risk is what it’s all about—God taking a risk on the world, a risk on us. Leaving divine glory and heavenly peace aside to become one of us. A goofy, crazy, laughable plan if there ever was one.
No matter when you sing them, may the carols of Christmas give you joy, and maybe even a few laughs. Especially if you could really use one.
Prayer Grant us joy in your birth, O newborn Jesus. And not a little goofiness. We could use a laugh. Amen.