DiM | “Real” by Nichole Nordeman

disapproveToday we are doing a Christmas Edition of “Discernment in Music” (DiM), here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)). I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’d be addressing CCM radio stations’ treatment of the Gospel during this Christmas season, but I got distracted by this song so we’ll push that discussing back a bit.

December 3, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at a contemporary Christmas song by Nichole Nordeman called “Real”. This song is beautifully sung… and poetically written. It stands apart from most of the holiday sugar-pop that plays in shopping malls and diners… this song attempts to look beyond the commercialism and the hype to the “real meaning of Christmas”. How does it fare? I find myself in a quandary, on the one hand we need a lot more serious Christmas songs; on the other hand, we need Christmas songs that proclaim the Truth, not some fanciful re-envisioned version of history shaped to tug on our heart-strings.

The story of Jesus’ Birth is real. There were witnesses. We have the history recorded in Scripture. You don’t have to imagine the facts, you just have to read and believe them. There are cases where our imagination can help us understand the facts, but our imagination doesn’t get to rewrite them. If you are caught up in the false spirit of Christmas, and this song helped wake you up, Praise the Lord… but don’t stop there… read the real account, recorded in Luke 1-2 & Matthew 1-2.

Nichole Nordeman VEVO Video

“A Walk One Winter Night” by Al Andrews

I shared the second video because it was credited as the inspiration for Nichole Nordeman’s song “Real”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to my readers, that I object to the premise of this song. I find it odd, even frustrating, that a song purporting to correct the listener’s misconceptions of Mary, or the night of Jesus’ birth would be inspired by a work of fiction, itself also containing some misconceptions of the manger, the “inn”, and those who were present on that night. Do we really need to turn to works of fiction to realize the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is that where we are as a Church today? For the vast majority of Western Evangelicalism… the answer is “yes”. Pulpits are replaced by performance stages, and Pastors no longer preach the Word of God, they preach their own ideas, their own fantasies, their own fiction… and people flock to them, because their fiction is so “relevant” to them, so “real”. We’ve traded what is REAL for what we want to hear. 

Lyrics (via MetroLyrics)

Real

Frozen statues in the cold
Washed in moonlight, blue and gold
Mary’s babe in plastic hay
Quiet wonder on her face
Mary you look so serene
Far too pretty, much too clean
We might think we know you well
But what stories would you tell?
Of all the dirt and dust and shame
Everybody burning labour pain

And as I turn to walk away
I hear you say
I am real
Don’t turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real
And I’ll show you what it means to love like this
To be real

Shepherds bending to the ground
Bethlehem is safe and sound
Joseph you look brave and true
Do we know what it was like to be you
How many sleepless nights awake
Found you desperate and afraid

And as I turn to walk away
I hear you say
I am real
Don’t turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real
And I’ll show you what it means to love like this
To love like you don’t even care about the hurry and the hustle
Like you are unaware December comes with so much trouble
‘Cause you believe a baby came, not in paintings or in plays
But every minute, every hour, every day
To be real, real

You are real, real

Show us what it means to love like this
To be real
To be real

More than a memory
More than a story
Real

Read more: Nichole Nordeman – Real Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Discussion

Both the book and the song it inspired engage in mystical fiction. Statues don’t talk and Mary and Joseph are not speaking to anyone today, much less for direct revelation. Evangelicalism is awash in mysticism today, so I feel it necessary to point this fact out explicitly.

Once we get past the feel-good revelation of, “hey, this isn’t just a holiday with lawn decorations, this is about a real story that took place”… the songs lyrics have some troubling elements. Why is Mary begging to be real to the observer? Mary is begging to be real to the observer in exchange for her demonstrating to the observer what it means to love like this. So, Mary wants to be real so that she can demonstrate her love. Mary is pointing to Mary? No. Mary would be pointing to Jesus. We don’t need Mary as an intermediary to Jesus. Mary isn’t the point of the story, Jesus is.

There are some details in the song that are good and even interesting to ponder, like what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph to have been visited by the shepherds, and their story of seeing the angelic host. I’m sure Mary and Joseph had many a sleepless night, as with any first-time parents in the first century.

Conclusion

The key to not letting the Gospel fade into memory or myth, is to have it preached from the Word of God on a regular basis. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, not by having your heartstrings plucked by some work of fiction. Preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season. Jesus took on the form of man for one reason, to live a life we couldn’t live and pay a price we couldn’t pay so that we can have a forgiveness we don’t deserve.  That’s the Grace of God found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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