Christmas carols abound at this time of year. Joy to the World; Silent Night; O Come, All Ye Faithful; Hark the Herald Angels Sing; The First Noel; We Three Kings. Add to these popular Christmas songs like The Christmas Song, White Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, All I Want for Christmas Is You, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Plus, the kiddie songs—Here Comes Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Each of them includes a seed of the truth about Christmas. We sing of the joy and exaltation of the holy day when we commemorate the Incarnation. We remember the holy birth from the still of the deep night to the human dimensions of the love that echoes through and around us when we gather. Even children’s songs speak of the joyful hope that celebrating God’s presence in Jesus Christ brings.
This canon of carols and songs lives on because what they convey in words and music are true, deeply, resoundingly, wonderfully true. But truth does not exist in a finite time and space. It endures. After the Christmas songs end—and dead, undecorated trees appear at the end of driveways all on the 26th of December—where is the Christmas carol that asks us to act on the truth of what the Incarnation means after December 25?
It’s on page five of my falling-apart-at-the-seams book of simple piano Christmas carols: Good King Wenceslaus. The five-verse song relates the tale of King Wenceslaus who spies a poor peasant shivering in the cold on St. Stephen’s Day and beckons his page to help him collect food, wine, and logs to deliver him and to the poor. In a blisteringly cold and raging storm, they trek through the woods and town making their deliveries:
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye, who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.
The carol reminds us that that we must stand in the truth every day, not just the big and important days. Christmas’ infant lowly grows into an adult that washes the feet of women, eats with taxpayers, and speaks with lepers every and any day. This Gospel truth is “made flesh” in all of us, and so we must stand up every day for what that truth means.
This week’s CatholicsRead titles are bound together by the way in which they challenge us to stand in our truth, the truth of our faith. One of these truths is that we sin and are in needed reconciliation. Ascension’s Pocket Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a practical tool to aid anyone who wants to ultimately rest secure in the love and mercy of God through the Sacrament. This may be particularly helpful to you during the closing days of the Advent season, as you prepare the way of the Lord in your heart.
If the Church has wounded you, Eve Tushnet, speaking as a gay Catholic in Ave Maria Press’ Tenderness, offers hope and companionship to those who have been deeply hurt by their parishes. Tushnet also provides practical guidance drawn from her own journey as a celibate lesbian.
Sometimes, reality crashes into our assumptions—and can leave us finding an even greater truth than we ever could have imagined. Liturgical Press’ The Hermits of Big Sur by author Paula Huston tells the compelling story of a novice at the New Camaldoli Hermitage who confronts a monastic way of life that is beyond sitting in prayer. The book describes the miraculous transformation that sometimes occurs in individual monks after decades of the practice of the “privilege of love.”
Sr. Genevieve Glen, OSB, a nimble poet and lifelong student of Scripture, takes us to new places in texts we thought we knew to help us know more deeply the Word made Flesh in Liturgical Press’ By Lamplight.
Consider reading Loyola Press’ Sharing the Wisdom of Time or watching the Netfllix series Stories of a Generation with Pope Francis that premieres on December 25, 2021, as your next step in standing in the truth of Christmas. This one-of-a-kind collection of stories about elders from around the world, including Pope Francis, is a great way to learn about the lifelong journey of living the Gospel truth.
Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.