Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tradition + Theology = ?????

This year I have listened to a few radio stations playing the old Christmas songs that I grew up with. It brings back many memories. One of those songs is "Here Comes Santa Claus" sung by Gene Autry. Below is a brief history of the writing of this song:

Gene was riding his horse, Champion, down Hollywood Boulevard for the annual Christmas parade in 1946 when, hearing the crowds of children gleefully crying, “Here comes Santa Claus!” he was inspired to write a song. He turned his sketch over to Oakley Haldeman (then in charge of Gene’s music publishing firms) and legendary A&R chief “Uncle” Art Satherley. They completed the lead sheet, hastening a copy over to singer/guitarist Johnny Bond’s home to make an acetate disc of the finished product. A cocktail was mixed for Uncle Art, who sipped near the microphone while Bond sang Here Comes Santa Claus for the first time. When the group heard the ice cubes jingling so merrily on the playback, they were inspired to use a “jingle bell” sound on Gene’s record! It was the first Gene Autry Christmas release, a huge commercial and artistic triumph that opened the door to an unexpected extension of his phenomenal career.

While listening to this song it seems the authors, Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman, mix a little of the tradition of Santa Claus with the truth of God. A few of the lines of the song while making good lyrics really don't make clear theology - in fact I don't quite fully understand them at all:

Santa knows that we're God's children,
That makes everything right.
Fill your hearts with Christmas cheer,
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

The author tells us that Santa knows that we are God's children. What does that mean? Are all people God's children in light of being part of the human family? Well, that might be somewhat seen in Scripture, but the Bible seems to show more often that God has a particular, chosen people who are His children. He possesses them as His own (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9). The writer of this song then tells us that this knowledge makes everything right. Again, what does he mean by that? How does it make everything right? He ends this stanza by concluding that based on these facts we are to fill our hearts with Christmas cheer - because Santa Claus comes tonight.

Another stanza has the phrase:

Peace on Earth will come to all
If we just follow the light

While this is probably derived from the scripture concerning the proclamation of the angels to the shepherds concerning a Savior, it really again is unclear as to how will peace come to all on the earth? What light does he mean we are to follow? While not trying to over analyze this Christmas ditty, I still think it is crucial that we always pay attention to those things we hear, read, and even sing to make sure that we are not proclaiming things the Bible does not.

I find it interesting that this song focusing on the coming of the traditional Santa Claus as the source of this joy. But if we look at these lines from the song from a Biblical perspective, we see that the source of this joy is found in the coming of a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, who will save His people from their sin. The songs talks about being a child of God, having peace, being right, and following the light. This is only possible through Jesus Christ. It is because of His coming, His perfect righteous life, His substitutionary sacrifice for His people, and His resurrection that indeed anyone can have true peace - a peace with God that comes from being forgiven from our sins which rightly deserve His wrath (Romans 5:1). It is only thought Him that we can be made right with God - able to stand before Him in the righteousness of Christ without fear of Him and able to call Him Father (Romans 5:19). He is the true light (John 1:9-13) and only those who call on and trust Him as Lord and Savior can truly be called His children for they have been adopted according to His kindness and His grace (Ephesians 1:5).

So while we sing and listen to these old time songs at Christmas, remember to sing some of the old time true Christmas Carols as well. In many of these we can see what happens when Biblical truth presents true doctrine clearly vs a tradition trying to exclaim why we really need to celebrate this time of year.

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