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How to Pray a Christmas Carol

When you sing, you pray twice—even if you’re the only one who can hear it this year.

How to pray a Christmas carol
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Christmas is coming and music fills the spheres (not to mention the playlists and earbuds). Normally this time of year I’d be singing in choir or joining friends at holiday parties, singing carols around a fire. Can’t do that this year. Ugh.

But though I’m not singing in big groups, doesn’t mean I can’t turn to the carols. Load a few up, listen to the words, hum along. In fact, you can pray a carol as well as sing it. As the old saying goes, “When you sing, you pray twice.” Even if you’re the only one who can hear.

Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn king. 

That first Christmas started with the angels singing to the shepherds. Add your voice to the chorus. I used to wonder why God would need us to praise Him. Then it dawned on me: it’s not just for God; it’s for us. Praising God makes you feel good.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. 

God brings miracles to the most unlikely places and most unexpected people. Nothing grand or fancy about Mary and Joseph, and Bethlehem was just a tiny speck on the map. And yet God chose that place and those people, like God chooses us.

The third verse of this carol has one of the loveliest lines: “Where meek souls will receive Him, still/The dear Christ enters in.” What a prayer! Let Christ enter in.

It came upon a midnight clear, That glorious song of old.

Not only can God’s choices be unexpected but so can His timing. In the middle of the night, in the midst of our darkness, in the waning days of a pandemic, the message comes: “Peace on earth goodwill to men/From heaven’s all gracious King!” Peace for us. When we need it.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.

This was one of the first songs I ever learned. I was barely out of the crib myself. The lyrics are the perfect lullaby and prayer, even for grown-ups.

Look at that third verse: “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay/Close by me forever,/And love me, I pray…” Then, now and for all time. Don’t wait for Christmas. Sing it now. Sing it six months from now. Sing and pray it anytime.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.

Not for nothing, this one is everybody’s favorite carol. Having a rough day? Feeling particularly anxious? Just hum it to yourself. Languish in that calm, that reassurance. All will be well. God is in charge.

The last verse is the best sort of Amen possible. “Silent night, holy night,/Son of God, love’s pure light/Radiant beams from Thy holy face/With the dawn of redeeming grace,/Jesus, Lord at Thy birth…” Feel the heavenly light dawn inside of you. It’s the love of Jesus. Pure light.


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