I heard this song for the first time last December, in Amman, Jordan, of all places.
Christmas isn't widely celebrated in Jordan—for obvious reasons—but I was at a small gathering of expat Christians from different NGOs. It was really cold that December, and I think everybody was feeling kind of down somehow. I mean, nobody was there for particularly happy reasons, and I don't think the year to that point had inspired a lot of hope for the situation in general (of course, looking back on this year since then, it would have been misplaced if it had). So, despite the cozy room and somewhat festive atmosphere, I think everyone was struggling a bit with what it actually meant to celebrate a holiday about hope and peace on earth when—like today—those things seemed even farther out of reach than usual.
I don't remember the name of the guy who led the meeting, but after we'd eaten cookies and talked for awhile, he had us all sit down and listen to this song. It's since become one of my favorites. As the title suggests, it's a Christmas song, but it focuses on some of the parts of the Christmas story—and the whole Gospel for that matter—that I think we tend to gloss over rather than try to deal with intellectually, let alone emotionally. It's not a Christian song. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was written by an Agnostic. Yet somehow when I heard it in that room, I felt like it brought more reconciliation between the reality of the Christmas story and the reality that was all around me than anything else I've heard.
When we turn on the news and hear about children dying pointlessly in Aleppo, we can do a lot of mental and emotional gymnastics to try and reconcile that with the "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men" part of the Christmas story. But maybe if we try to reconcile it with the children dying pointlessly in Bethlehem part of the story, we'd find it doesn't need reconciliation. Of course, we don't like to focus on that part, because it brings up a lot of questions we struggle to answer. But when the rubber meets the road, isn't a story full of the same irreconcilable questions we're confronted with in the reality we live in more valuable than a tidy, triumphant story that we can't reconcile with the reality that we live in?
Last year I felt like it was, and this year I'm inclined to think so too.