As a kid in a large extended family, I remember feeling like the adults took FOREVER to get to the best part of Christmas Day - the gifts.
Every year we observed a routine of Scripture, food, and carols that culminated in us all singing my grandpa's favorite, "Silent Night." I remember him clutching his Bible and leading us in all three verses.
As I grew, I learned the words of all the carols, and I loved them as a fixture of the holidays. But even as my faith became my own, I never really counted these carols with the great Christian hymns such as "Amazing Grace" or "It is Well With My Soul."
Like the rest of the Christmas accoutrements, I would file "Silent Night" away at the end of the season.
That is until the year we lost my grandpa. That December when we gathered and sang "Silent Night," it was the first time that my untouched, idyllic world of Christmas could be dark and grey, just like the other months of the year.
And it was in this darkness that I listened to the words of his favorite song. There's a phrase in one of the verses of "Silent Night" that struck me - "the dawn of redeeming grace."
Suddenly this phrase took on new meaning for me. Even as the darkness of the other 11 months now reached into my December, the light of the Incarnation shone that much more brightly and overcame it. My world desperately in need of a dawn had found one.
From then on I saw this song not as a seasonal poem - it was a meditation touching on the entirety of our troubled condition, fully deserving of its page in the hymnal. In my darkest Christmas yet, the hope of Immanuel, God with us, was returned to me.
And now I count "Silent Night" among my favorite Christian hymns. It is one of many Christmas carols steeped in Scripture and theology relevant in all seasons. That is why these winter songs are now the anthems of my spring, summer, and fall too.