Reflections on an Old Carol

“The angel Gabriel from Heaven came

His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame

‘All hail,’ said he, ‘Thou lowly maiden Mary,

Most highly favored lady, Gloria!’”

For a lot of people, the subject of Christmas music is a pretty sticky one. Everybody has their own rules about when the consumption of Christmas music should begin, traditions and rituals surrounding certain songs, and of course their own biases about which songs or versions won’t be tolerated (Johnny Mathis is a big no in our home). For me, beyond the festiveness of listening to certain music when we reach different seasons in the year, there are songs that I connect with on a soul level, that bring me to a place of internal reflection about the season.

This year, one of those has been Sting’s recording of the ancient carol, “Gabriel’s Message.” It isn’t just the wonder and mystery in the lyrics, but the cadence of the melody and the moody arrangement that I find myself enraptured with. The softly picked guitar, the muted trumpet, and the gentle vocal arrangement bring out the strange, mystical nature of the song’s subject matter: God’s messenger arriving to bring young, lowly Mary some truly earth-shattering news. The second verse tells it beautifully:

“For known a blessed mother thou shalt be

All generations laud and honor thee

Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold”

To me, the herald coming to announce the arrival of the long awaited messiah, an angel of God speaking to a young, humble virgin girl is one of the Bible’s most powerful pictures. The divine literally coming into our midst and blowing away our expectations of what’s to come. Nothing captures this mystical, supernatural moment quite like this song, and this version in particular.

What are some songs this holiday season that have spoken to you and made you feel more connected to the story of Jesus’ arrival into our world?