My Favorite Christmas Carol

Years ago when our kids were very young, we lived in South Florida. Even though I hadn’t grown up with an annual white Christmas (snow in our part of Tennessee was a pretty rare event) I found it very difficult to get into the Christmas spirit when it was 75 degrees outside. You can only turn the air conditioning down so far, and there’s just something wrong with Christmas lights strung on palm trees.

In fairness, the people who lived there tried to get into the spirit of the season. One year a car dealership announced that they were bringing a truckload of snow to dump in their lot so that kids could come and play. There were a lot of kids there, including ours, to play in the “snow.” But what they ended up with looked more like something that came out of a snow cone machine than out of clouds in the sky.

Christmas has always been important to me. When we were very young, our parents had us memorize the Christmas story from Luke 2. We would quote it from memory on Christmas morning before opening the presents. When the only thing standing between you and presents is twenty verses from Luke, you can talk pretty fast.

Many of the traditions we set then when I was child carried forward into our family. Some of them, including Luke 2, we still do today. Although as long as my parents don’t read this, I’ll admit that these days somebody usually has a Bible handy in case we get stuck. I never can remember whether “and the shepherds returned” comes before or after “and Mary kept all these things.”

The world has commercialized Christmas to the point where it is almost unrecognizable. As poet and humorist Ogden Nash noted, “Christmas was once a season of love and good will. Now it’s the holiday that it’s so many shopping days until.” But it isn’t less important because the truth of the season is buried under mounds of presents and later mounds of credit card bills.

We wanted Christmas to matter to our kids as well, and so despite the south Florida environment, we did our best to welcome the season. We decked the halls, played Christmas music (starting after Thanksgiving), and started wrapping presents and putting them under the tree. As Christmas got closer and closer, the kids got more and more excited.

The church we were attending was having a candlelight Christmas Eve service, so we got in the car and headed for church. On the way, we were providing our own soundtrack, singing Christmas songs. We did old carols and beloved hymns and even a fun song or two (this was before Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer was introduced to the kids and promptly banned as being unfit for polite company) and were generally having a very good time.

After we had sung several songs, my wife suggested that we should sing our favorites. I went first, and we sang What Child Is This? The ancient melody combined with those words speaks to my heart just as much now as it did when I first heard it. So we sang through several verses.

Then it was my son’s turn. He was either four or five that year. When my wife asked him what his favorite Christmas carol was, he didn’t hesitate a moment. He said, “Let’s sing Jesus Loves Me.” I opened my mouth to tell him that wasn’t a Christmas song.

But before I said that, I thought better of it, and instead of correcting him, I starting singing along. It may not be a classic carol of the season, but is there any better summation of the purpose and true meaning of Christmas than these simple words? There are grand and glorious anthems, and I love them. But out of all the Christmas songs I know, I can’t think of one that is more fitting and appropriate to Christmas than this:

Jesus loves me,
This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak,
But He is strong.
Yes Jesus loves me,
Yes Jesus loves me,
Yes Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so.

 

Jesus loves me,
He who died,
Heaven’s gate to open wide.
He will wash away my sin;
Let His little child come in.
Yes Jesus loves me,
Yes Jesus loves me,
Yes Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so.

 

Jesus loves me,
He will stay
Close beside me all the way.
Then His little child will take
Up to Heaven for His dear sake.
Yes Jesus loves me,
Yes Jesus loves me,
Yes Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so.

I had sung that song for years and years, knowing it so well that I didn’t give it much thought. So I went and looked up the history of the song. It dates back to just before the Civil War, when a version of the text appeared as a poem spoken to a dying child. A few years later it was set to music, and before long it had traveled around the world. It deserves to be remembered and sung, not just by children, but by all of us. While we may set aside childish things, some things never go out of date.

He isn’t little anymore. The kids are all grown up now, making their own way, although I’m so glad they still come home for Christmas. And the older I get, the more important the Christmas story is, and the more I appreciate the love of Jesus—yes, for the world, but also for me. So while the world spins by faster and faster (ringing, singing on its way) and we get busier and busier, buying more and more presents, I hope I never lose the joy of my son’s favorite Christmas carol…and mine.


Robert Byers has helped produce numerous book and curriculum projects for a wide variety of ministries and pastors. He received BA in theology (‘84) and Master’s degree in education (‘85) from Hyles-Anderson College. Robert and his wife Brenda have two adult children, Rhonda and Bryant, and live in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he works as a freelance writer.

779 reads

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.