Saturday Music: Skillet

I’m not musically inclined, so I’m not really qualified to discuss the objective musical quality of any band. My criteria for music that I like is a purely subjective enjoyment and / or that it sparks some creative juices or gives a good emotional charge.

The result is that I only rarely get attached to actual bands; I mostly go on a song-by-song basis. But one of the few that I regularly return to and find a reliable source of songs I like is Skillet.

I’ve mentioned them before, but the short version is that they’re a rock band with Christian sensibilities. Or perhaps a Christian rock band. Or a rock band that happens to be composed of Christians. Some of their songs are explicitly religious, others are just rocking awesomeness or gooely emotional.

But whatever the subject matter they have a tendency to hit just the right note for my tastes. I go to them fairly often for my Appreciation videos and have a few other creative ideas for their work down the line.

If you haven’t heard them before, I offer a selection of some of my favorites of their songs for your enjoyment.

(There are two versions of this one: one with a growl, another without it. This is the one without, since that’s what I prefer)
(This one pretty sums up my feelings about Progressive movements)

A Christmas Concert

Merry Christmas to you all!

I beg leave to present for your enjoyment a brief Christmas concert made up of some of my favorite Christmas songs. Most of these are classics, but a few are more on the quirky side.

With that said, let us open with one of those classics: the great Bing Crosby sings Good King Wenceslas. What more needs to be said?

For our second number, we have a light-hearted romantic classic going out to all of you who are either spending Christmas with your loved ones or who may be secretly pining for someone who warms your heart. I present Let it Snow, delightfully performed by the super cute Isabella Garcia-Shapiro:

I think we need a bit of comedy to brush off all the warm-fuzzies that we got from that number. With that in mind, I offer a nice little song for all those who are spending tonight in public houses and other liquor-serving establishments: A Patrick Swayze Christmas, performed by Crow T. Robot, Joel Robinson, and Tom Servo.

That seems like a good segway into the darker side of Christmas: the people who simply can’t get into the mood. With that in mind, here is You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch, performed by Thurl Ravenscroft:

Building on that jolly number is a chilling little song offering warning and opportunity for the Grinch-like sinner. I present Marley and Marley, performed by Statler and Waldorf:

Returning a bit more to the serious side of things, here’s a melancholy number by a man who needs no introduction. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you A Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley!

Staying on the melancholy note, but striking a more hopeful strain is Burl Ives singing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s defiant song of hope in the midst of tragedy, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, reminding all of us who are suffering, lonely, and without hope that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

I think that’s enough doom and gloom: let’s move into the glory of Christmas with a memorable rendition of Silent Night from the 1999 version of A Christmas Carol. The visuals are a little distracting, but the point they convey remains powerful, as we see poor men all across Christendom lift their voices in joy on this night of nights:

Our penultimate number is a gorgeous rendition of the triumphant Hark the Herald Angels Sing, performed by a flash mob (I couldn’t find out where or when, but it hardly matters).

Finally, let’s close out with my personal favorite: O Come All Ye Faithful, performed during Christmas Eve services at Westminster Abbey in 2013. Let the sounds of hundreds of faithful voices singing in one of the most beautiful churches in Christendom and the wellspring of the British Crown fill your hearts with the joy and love that comes from God as we welcome Him this Christmas night:

A Merry Christmas everyone!

We Have No King But Jesus

Today is the Feast of Christ the King, established by Pope Pius XI of happy memory to remind us that, in all the vicissitudes of history, Jesus Christ is ruler of all. Considering that Pope Pius reigned during the rise of the modern totalitarian states of Italy, Germany, Spain, and Russia, no doubt he also wished to remind the faithful suffering under dictatorships that Jesus Christ, the King of kings, was their true master to whom their first allegiance was owed.

We in the twenty-first century don’t have a lot if experience with kingship, especially we Americans. It’s an idea out of storybooks and history (which, for most of us, means basically the same thing), not something we have ever really felt. That’s a shame, because I don’t think we can really understand Christianity without understanding the idea of Christ the King.

The King is a personal ruler; he is the father of his people, with all that implies. He is meant to dedicate his life to their welfare, to see that they are fed, clothed, educated, happy, and safe. Traditionally, kings led their armies in war, stood in judgement over wrongdoers, and presided at religious observances. In return, the people gave him their unflinching loyalty. A good king was a king the people were happy to obey, whom they loved dearly, and admired with a reverent awe.

There are, of course, many historical examples of good kings (St. Louis the IX of France, Alfred the Great of England, John III of Poland, etc). But I find the most emotionally resonant images of kingship are in fiction, particularly the scene in The Lord of the Rings where Faramir awakens to find Aragorn at his bedside:

Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. “My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?”

Faramir, a man of nobility, recognizes the king at once, loves him, and instantly places himself at his service, “For who would lie idle when the king has returned?” Service to the king, not out of fear, but out of love, is such a strong instinct in him that it draws him back even from the point of death. The scene makes allusion to another passage, this one in the Gospel of Matthew:

For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

The centurion’s position as a man within a hierarchy of authority gave him greater insight into Christ’s position as king than the Jews could have. At the moment, their image of kingship was either the foreign Emperor who had conquered them or his tyrannical puppet rulers. The centurion understood kingship and authority and it gave him faith that made even Jesus marvel.

C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves is an excellent and brilliant work, but I think it may be incomplete. I think there’s a fifth love which he missed; what we might call imperial love, or love of one’s superior. The love of a subject for his king, the soldier for the general, the student for his teacher, and so on (if I could write to him and ask, he probably would have said that it would go under affection, but I think it’s a distinct enough state to warrant its own essay). It is this love that came into Faramir’s eyes when he beheld his lord and this love that drives men to follow their commanders into hell. It is the love proper to the king. It is the one that says “My lord, you have but to command and it shall be done.” This love we should have for Our Lord, Christ the King in abundance.

During the American Revolution, of the rallying cries of the Patriot forces was “We have no king but Jesus!” The Feast of Christ the King is, I think, especially important in an election year. It reminds us that, whether we voted for the winner or the loser (and whatever we think of the winner), he is not really the one in charge. His authority is not his own, but is merely delegated, conditionally, from the one who guides the course of history according to His sovereign will.

For have but one King, our true King, who holds our fate in His hands, and to whom we owe absolute allegiance. We have no king but Jesus Christ.

Viva Christo Rey!