Pray the Carols
I’m sure you can hear Christmas carols playing. They seem to be all over, blasting down from the heavens or at least the loud speakers in the mall. Of course it’s fun to sing along. But often the words are great for praying. Here are a few verses that on their own feel like prayers:
Right off, isn’t “Silent Night” everybody’s favorite? What more prayerful words are there for a noisy world than “All is calm, all is bright?” As we pray for the baby to “sleep in heavenly peace,” we can pray for the peace that the Christ Child promises to bring.
Prayer is praise and adoration, a time to lift up our voices. “O come, all ye faithful,” we sing, and then get to repeat the refrain endlessly at the end of each stanza: “O come, let us adore Him,/O come, let us adore Him/O come, let us adore Him.” If we are adoring our Lord, our differences will surely fade away.
The holiday lights are meant to guide us on our meandering way, as the star in the East guided the Wise Men. I love the way the refrain in “We Three Kings” reminds us that there is a light even brighter than the one in the sky. “O star of wonder, star of night…Guide us to thy perfect light.” Guide us to God.
Sometimes the prayer in a carol can be in the second, third or last verse. “Away in a Manger” was one of the first carols I ever learned. There is an especially lovely prayer in the third verse: “Be near me, Lord Jesus,/I ask Thee to stay/Close by me forever/and love me I pray!”
Okay, so maybe the weather is bitter cold and the rain, sleet or snow is mucking up with our travel plans. Perhaps it’s worth pulling out a prayerful “Fa-la-la-la” or two. “Sing we joyous, all together./Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la/heedless of the wind and weather.” We can ask for heaven-sent joy to make us heedless of life’s storms.
We pray for change in ourselves as much as change in the world. The last verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” says it all: “O Holy Child of Bethlehem/Descent to us, we pray;/Cast out our sin and enter in;/Be born in us today.” Every day.
And finally, my favorite verse of any carol, the very end of “In the Bleak Midwinter.” A good prayer for anytime of year:
What can I give Him, small as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
What I can, I give Him, give my heart.