No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. II Timothy 2:4
The irony was not lost on me.
Christmas was closing in, and I was stressed, exhausted, and in need of a moment of peace and serenity. I knew I needed to be reminded of what the season was all about, and although I already knew the answer, I thought – What better than some heavenly music to lift my spirits? Our local Christian radio station was having its annual “Twelve Days of Christmas” – non-stop holiday songs for twelve days straight, leading up to Christmas Day.
I set everything else aside and tuned in expectantly to hear what God was going to whisper to me in that moment of solitude. I was a disappointed (and a bit disgusted) to hear an old favorite from the secular charts playing for the 999th time. Although a Christian artist was singing it, the lyrics hadn’t magically transformed the holiday ditty into a gospel message. Not ready to give up, I started slowly turning the dial to see if I might stumble upon another source of inspiration.
I stopped immediately when I heard a gorgeous rendition of “O Holy Night” by Josh Groban. I closed my eyes and sighed with contentment as I once again contemplated the words of my favorite carol. (Never mind that I already knew all three verses by heart – in English and French.) When the song was finished and the stress had dissipated, I wanted to make a mental note of what this other Christian radio station was. … As it turned out, it was a secular station.
If I may give a word of advice to the programmers for Christian radio stations: Go easy on the Christmas love songs. Now I know what you’re thinking,
“Hey, God invented romance!” Please understand, I have nothing against romance, but please take a moment to think about your target audience – the people you want to minister the gospel to. Consider that the people most open to the Good News are people who are hurting. Many kinds of pain become all the more unbearable at the holidays, when it seems everyone is happy but you. A person grieving the loss of a spouse may tune in to a Christian station looking for hope and comfort, and if you’re playing cheery songs about being with the one you love, you could unwittingly be rubbing salt into an already wounded heart.
NEWS FLASH: Lonely, hurting people do not feel like rocking around the Christmas tree.
This is the one time of year when it’s acceptable to the general public to be singing about Jesus. People may be tuning into your station who don’t ordinarily listen, who after the holidays may go back to whatever secular music they’re accustomed to. Why would a Christian radio station want to squander this golden opportunity filling precious air time with the same tired songs about cuddling by the fire and couples in love frolicking in the snow? We get enough of that music at the mall and the grocery store. In the unlikely event that anyone wants to hear even more of them, there are plenty of secular stations out there that are already airing them.
I realize that playing secular favorites might be seen as a sort of “sanctified bait” to get people to listen to your station, but personally I don’t think you need bait this time of year – it’s Christmas! For many people, even unbelievers, Christmas carols can bring back happy memories of Christmas past, and if it’s been a while, they may be paying attention to the words for the very first time!
“But we need variety.” Fine, then have variety. Mix the traditional carols sung by choirs with country songs about the birth of Jesus, such as Dolly Parton’s “Once Upon a Christmas,” and contemporary songs with substance, such as “Mary, Did You Know?” You might even throw in a song from Handel’s Messiah. There’s at least one recent winner of “The Voice” (popular enough to receive millions of votes) who is a person of faith and has recorded a Christmas album. When my son was a teenager, we even had an album of Christmas rap. One thing I love about “Jesus music” is that it comes in all styles. (Makes sense – He created music.)
If your station is like the one I used to listen to, I know you receive donations from thousands of supporters who believe in the message of the gospel and trust you to get that message out to many more people than they could reach individually. Please do so. Don’t waste a moment of this awesome opportunity to spread the Good News at the time people – especially hurting people – are most open to it.
So please, if you really want to be “the station with a difference,” ditch the secular songs about temporal things. Stick with songs like “O Holy Night,” and give the world the hope it so desperately needs.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us so deeply that You would leave the glory of Your throne in heaven to save us. You exchanged Your glory for our shame. To atone for our sins, You suffered the pain, humiliation, and death on the Cross that we deserved, so that we might have Your righteousness and the eternal life we don’t deserve. As we celebrate Your love for us, help us not to forget that millions of people don’t yet know about that love. Help us not to be too wrapped up in our own interests to reach out to them through whatever platform You’ve given us, until everyone has heard the Good News. In Your name we pray. Amen.