Things that inspire me to simply say...WTF??
NOVEMBER 19, 2010 7:33AM

Sacred Music in the Holiday Marketplace

Rate: 6 Flag



~photo courtesy of

Deck the Halls, the Holiday Season is fast approaching!  In fact, for some time, the chambers of the Retailers' cathedrals have already been decked out, including the playing of Christmas music! 

In my opinion, "Silent Night" captures the essence of the Christian myth as no other Christmas hymn.  In it's simple elegance, written for guitar and voice, to be played in a hushed ballad style, "Silent Night" takes the darkness of night and transforms it into the brilliance of it's message - God is with us.

To stand in a darkened chapel or glorious sanctuary, holding this one small lit candle, is to hold the light of this message against the darkness of all that steals one's hope, one's faith and one's belief that love is stronger than hate.  To sing "Silent Night" while holding this candle is to glimpse past the opposites that so often imprison us and behold the that which is eternal, beyond the opposites.  For a brief moment, I am carried upward into that which is Transcendent.

My eyes always well up with tears.  My heart and soul fill with wonder and awe.  Judging by the numbers of people who attend Candlelight Christmas Services - and I know this from experience as both attendee and officiant- I am not alone in how this beautiful experience touches me.

Nor am I alone in this deep appreciation for all the Christian sacred music of the Christmas season.   They are hymns.  They are vehicles of worship. They express the proclamation of Incarnation - God with us in the person of Jesus the Christ.  These sacred scores of beautiful music, with words that express praise, wonder and awe occupy a treasured place in the worshipful expression of the American Christian community.


~photo courtesy of Bing and Infomofo

In the coming weeks I will set my foot inside the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Marketplace.  I will join the migration of holiday shoppers as we search for what advertisers like to tell us is "the perfect gift."  Lights will flicker and garland will hang from the escalators.  Beautifully decorated Christmas trees will take their places on the counter tops, in the center squares, at the entrances that greet us.

All around us, the music of the season will hover, painting a canvas of expectation, anticipation, and yes, fantasy.  And among the melodic brush strokes will be the sacred hymns, including the simple and elegant "Silent Night."

To me, hearing "Silent Night" in the Mall seems like such a disconnect.  I can only liken it to bringing a credit card machine into a Candlelight Christmas Service.  Or better, watching the choir stand, the Choir leader cue the pianist and voices breaking out in singing, "Louie Louie."  Yes, for me, it is that bad.

There I will be in the hallowed halls of the Cathedral to Consumerism - the Mall - and overhead I will hear, in various manifestations, the great hymns of the Christian Church's most cherished proclamation and doctrine. 

When did this all start?  Who is it that came up the bright idea to take the most cherished of Christian hymns and play them as mood music for Holiday shoppers?  And where were the voices of protest from the faithful?

True, many are quite pleased with hearing their sacred hymns being sung while they shop for lingerie at Victoria Secret or check out the latest tech gadgets at Best Buy.  But not me.  I think doing so cheapens the sacred, profanes the holy, not to mention foists onto those who aren't Christian the essential teachings of one particular religion. 

I will admit, in this, I am a Scrooge.  What makes my objection to playing these sacred hymns even more ironic, is that I am a Buddhist.  Perhaps an uptight Buddhist, but a Buddhist nonetheless.  And I say to the Mall owners, as well as everyone else who owns a business and glories in the mad profit of this holiday season.  "Show some respect for the cherished hymns of those who believe that 'Jesus is the reason for the season' and stop with the pimping of the Church's music."

In the meantime, I will see you who are Christian at the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.  I will be the Buddhist holding the lighted candle as tears well up in my eyes.








Author tags:

hymns, music, sacred, shopping, christmas

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
"Who is it that came up the bright idea to take the most cherished of Christian hymns and play them as mood music for Holiday shoppers?"

It's been happening for a long time, before I was ever born!! :( ~grin~

But hey, sometimes, we need a good Christmas song to get us, uh, shopping!! Wait, what?

lawrence ferlinghetti: christ climbed down
by Sheba
Published December 14, 2008
Views: 1282


Christ climbed down from His bareTree

this yearand ran away to where

there were no rootless Christmas trees

hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed downfrom His bareTree

this year

and ran away to where

there were no gilded Christmas trees

and no tinsel Christmas trees

and no tinfoil Christmas trees

and no pink plastic Christmas trees

and no gold Christmas trees

and no black Christmas trees

and no powderblue Christmas trees

hung with electric candles

and encircled by tin electric trains

and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down from His bare Tree

this year and ran away to where no intrepid Bible salesmen

covered the territory in two-tone cadillacs

and where no Sears Roebuck creches

complete with plastic babe in manger

arrived by parcel post the babe by special delivery

and where no televised Wise Men

praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down from His bare Tree this year

and ran away to where no fat handshaking stranger

in a red flannel suit

and a fake white beard

went around passing himself off

as some sort of North Pole saint

crossing the desert to Bethlehem

Pennsylvaniain a Volkswagen sled

drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer

with German names

and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts

from Saks Fifth Avenue

for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down from His bare Tree

this year and ran away to where no Bing Crosby carollers

groaned of a tight Christmas

and where no Radio City angels

iceskated wingless

thru a winter wonderland

into a jinglebell heaven

daily at 8:30

with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down from His bare Treethis year

and softly stole away into

some anonymous Mary's womb again

where in the darkest nightof everybody's anonymous soul

He awaits again

an unimaginable

and impossibly

Immaculate Reconception

the very craziest of Second Comings

stop the advance of the 451s
While I've started every day since '98 by sitting mindfully on a wee cushion, watching the night turn into morning, I'm not a Buddhist, but all this rang so so true just the same. Why do we do this to sublime music? Leo Kottke tunes set to elevator music. Who allowed that? I haven't set foot in mall for many years, at any season. It feels like a dose of triple X mind poison.
I can't get through a candlelight Christmas Eve service without the tears overflowing. It gets me every time. I'm looking forward to it. I need it.
I'm a Christian but I interpret all this in a strange way, I guess. Christmas is a celebration of Jesus Christ, a guy known for his love and tolerance. To me, a worldwide birthday celebration where people think of their loved ones, buy gifts for each other, decorate whole towns - what could be better? That there would be hymns playing at the mall is, to me, not disrespect, but may perhaps serve as a small reminder of the sacred in the midst of all the fun. A sacred that is at once a part of the way we celebrate Christmas today, and something beyond it.
How about just not playing music at all in stores. I dont want to hear it and it's facshist to make me listen to it. Dammitt!