Faith Matters: Christmas Carols

Pastor Shawn Hannon Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
Pastor Shawn Hannon Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

I do not know about you, but I have found great meaning and peace in the music of this season this year. I can confidently tell you that on a personal level I have never listened to as much Christmas music in a single season before in my entire life. I suppose I have needed the nostalgia, the comfort, and the hope as I have navigated this time of anxiousness and uncertainty. But in my listening, I noticed something I had not noticed before. Christmas music is remarkably optimistic. Of course, we think of it as joyful, but this year it wasn’t just the joy that stood out, but the optimism. Christmas music is a glass half-full looking at the world through rose-colored glasses type of genre.

Consider these lyrics:

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

“It’s the hap-happiest season of all.”

“Have a holly jolly Christmas. It’s the best time of the year.”

“…what a beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight.”

“…from now on all our troubles will be miles away.”

But as I listened to these lyrics, indeed as I sang along, some of them felt disingenuous to me. This Christmas, after all, may not be the most wonderful for many people who will be celebrating it alone or differently. This Christmas may reflect more of the fear of the shepherds when the angel appeared in the sky than the haste and excitement they felt racing to see the newborn king.

I like Christmas music, but in this regard I think some of our favorite Christmas songs lead us astray. They invite us into a sort of Christmas celebration that pretends everything is fine and hopes for a holiday that is picture perfect. But is that really what Christmas is all about?

Of course not. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Christmas isn’t a recognition of the beauty of the world, but of God’s presence and activity in the brokenness of it. Santa comes because we are nice. Jesus was born because humanity is naughty and in need of a Savior. Christmas carols may invite us to sing about how wonderful everything is, but Christmas itself bids us to sing instead of God’s decisive and redemptive activity in a hurting world.

So as you celebrate Christmas this year and blast your favorite holiday songs, if your reality isn’t matching up to the picture painted by Bing Crosby or the Carpenters’ Christmas album, remember our carols are best sung in moments of need. On the darkest day of the year, we light candles and remember that Jesus is the light of the world.




For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn Hannon
Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.