Blog Post: A Merry Little Christmas

December 21, 2021

By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline



On Sunday I talked about how we’ve done dirty to the Magnificat. The best Christmas song ever written (though I can’t attest to the melody) has been buried and snowed over. Mary’s song, and Mary’s witness, can’t stand to be pushed underground anymore. I’m still pretty fired up over it.


But I want to talk about the worst change to a Christmas song that has nothing to do with Jesus. I’m talking, of course, about Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Popularized in 1944 by Judy Garland from Meet Me In Saint Louis. It looks back and looks forward, to hard Christmases and Christmases to come.


It’s a great song. Really, one of the tops in terms of classic radio Christmas staples. But we can’t ever let a good thing be a good thing.


Here’s how the song’s lyrics were in its original form:


Have yourself a merry little Christmas. It may be your last. Next year we may all be living in the past. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Pop that champagne cork. Next year we may all be living in New York. No good times like the olden days. Happy golden days of yore. Faithful friends who were dear to us. Will be near to us no more. But at least we all will be together. If the Lord allows. From now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.


Those lyrics were deemed too depressing, which may be true and we may never have heard the song ever again if every time it played we were forced to reckon with our mortality. Judy Garland asked for some of the changes that we know, and probably some of that is for the better. I have no quarrel with you, Judy Garland.


My real beef is with Frank Sinatra.


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Ol’ Blue Eyes recorded a version for his album A Jolly Christmas, and felt that even the Garland version was too much of a bummer for his jolly old album. So he changed them again to the ones that we hear most.


Have yourself a merry little Christmas Let your heart be light From now on Our troubles will be out of sight


Have yourself a merry little Christmas Make the Yule-tide gay From now on Our troubles will be miles away


Here we are as in olden days Happy golden days of yore Faithful friends who are dear to us Gather near to us once more


Through the years we all will be together If the fates allow Hang a shining star upon the highest bough And have yourself a merry little Christmas now


Hang a shining star upon the highest bough? Sure, I guess. But I’m firmly in the “until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” camp. Especially after the last couple years.


What can we say about the last couple years except that we’ve been muddling through? When we weren’t able to be together, when the fates kept us apart, we muddled through. As we trudged through the fog and marshland of 2020 and 2021 some of us still found ways to have ourselves a merry little Christmas. But some of us just muddled through.


And this year some of us are sitting gratefully with the new verse:


Here we are as in olden days Happy golden days of yore Faithful friends who are dear to us Gather near to us once more


Folks who remember the Christmases of 2018 or 2019 (the golden days?) and are here again. Finally journeying out of the muddle and reuniting with faithful friends and loved ones.


But there are tons of songs about that. There are all sorts of Christmas songs about getting together with people and having a jolly and gay time. But we’ve lost a lot lately, and the optimism that we had for 2021 soured with the confusion of the variants and middle/late pandemic. So can’t we have this one? Those of us who have lost? Those of us who are still muddling through? And for those of us out there who have lost people, whose families won’t look the same this Christmas, who are sitting with empty seats, there is solace in these lyrics.


No good times like the olden days. Happy golden days of yore. Faithful friends who were dear to us. Will be near to us no more.


We will be together if the fates allow. But until then, I hope we can muddle through this together, we can recognize our losses, and maybe (hopefully) find the moments in which we can have ourselves a merry little Christmas.

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Merry (almost) Christmas,

Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline

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