Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jingle Bell Blues

What's up with this photo?
      Over the past five years, I have wasted at least thirty hours of my life searching for the perfect Christmas radio station.

     I have yet to find it.

     I admit my expectations are set pretty high. I'm not opposed to some of the secular standards like "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" and "Jingle Bell Rock," but I'd like to find a station that plays primarily sacred music. Since I've got something of a scientific background, I don't even mind putting a numerical ratio to it; my ideal station would have a 10:1 mix of sacred to secular music. Unfortunately, most of the local stations seem to have that ratio completely reversed. If I want to hear one nice rendition of "O Holy Night," I've got to suffer through eight ditties practically worshiping Santa and one love song lamenting about lost holiday romance.

     Unfortunately, when I try the Christian holiday stations (both locally and online), I find myself even more disgruntled. Thankfully there's no Santa serenades, but there's a whole bunch of contemporary songs (that would never be played at a Christmas Eve service) and bad Christmas carol covers aplenty. Christians should be leading our culture when it comes to music and art (think Handel's "Messiah"). Unfortunately, the quality of Christian holiday music today - much like the Grinch's heart - needs to grow a few sizes in my humble opinion.

     So, this year I've made up a list of suggestions for Christian radio stations, in hopes of making everyone's holiday listening experience a little more enjoyable ... and a little less painful on the ears as well.

1) I have no idea if Bing Crosby was a Christian or not, but he can sing "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" better than anybody else. Period. Please don't waste your time (or ours) with sub-par renditions of Christmas classics just because they're sung by the same artists you play the whole year long.

2) All Christmas songs have a melody. Believe it or not, we are supposed to actually hear that melody. Yet so many new Christian covers of standard carols are sung just in harmony (and an awkward harmony at that). Rule of thumb: if you can't sing along with it the first time you hear what should be a familiar carol, why allow it to clutter up the airwaves at all? 

3) Holiday songs aren't Christian simply because they're sung by a Christian group, just like the trashy romance novel that somehow found its way into our church library is not a Christian book simply because it is on the shelf next to "The Prayer of Jabez." To throw out a hypothetical example, if BeBe and CeCe Winans decided to record a cover of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," that still would not transform a (somewhat disturbing) secular song into one that glorifies God or points to the real meaning of the Christmas season.

4) A song does not have to be new to be powerful. The Bible never says Christmas songs have to be less than one year old to be considered "good." Nor do traditional carols have to be revamped, resynchopated, and reharmonized every year to be worth listening to. (Please refer to point 1 above.)

     I'm sure it's too late to occupy the airwaves this year, but maybe the Christian stations will take some of my advice to heart next holiday season. Otherwise I may just have to buy a few Bing Crosby albums for myself and call it good.
What about you? Where do you turn to find great Christmas music? Do you have any other complaints to add to my list for the contemporary Christian music industry? (Feel free to leave your comment below.)


  1. So funny! John and I were just talking about this! And have to say we were making the same points.