I have a confession to make: I occasionally listen to Christmas music during the summer. If I’m stressed or feeling down, a little “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night” is a perfect antidote regardless of the time of year. I used to think I was the only crazy person in the world who did this, but I discovered a kindred spirit after interviewing Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Matthew West on “Christopher Closeup.”
West, who just released an outstanding CD called “The Heart of Christmas,” has always had a year-round fascination with Christmas. It’s not just the presents and decorations that attract him; it’s the focus on the birth of Jesus Christ.
During our interview, West recalled that, when he was growing up, his parents always read the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel before any presents could be opened Christmas morning. At the time, the waiting seemed like “punishment.” Looking back now, it helped him realize, “There is no gift greater than the gift of the Savior.”
That’s a message West feels our society desperately needs. He said, “The chaos that has become Christmas is anything but Christ-focused these days. From the advertising to the shopping to everybody trying to take Christ out of this season, my wife and myself feel we have to make [Jesus] that much more of a priority if we want our kids to grow up knowing what Christmas is about and where true joy is found, not only at Christmas but all throughout the year.”
One of the original songs on West’s album is called, “Leaving Heaven,” and it’s sung from the perspective of Jesus as He’s getting ready to leave heaven and enter human existence. There’s a line in the song that the singer finds particularly important: “If you ever wonder how much you’re worth, you should know you’re the reason why I’m leaving heaven.” The reason it resonates with him is because his last album, entitled “The Story of Your Life,” was completely inspired by letters his fans sent him sharing their personal triumphs and challenges. A common theme in many of those stories was people’s struggles with their sense of self-worth.
West recalled one fan who said her father always told her she was “just a mistake.” As a father himself, West was appalled at this message. He said, “Whether it’s a result of parents who didn’t know how to love them or friends who bullied them, [many kids] are growing up with this skewed idea of how much they’re worth and how God sees them…A lot of times, the message of self-worth in our world is skewed. There’s a Lady Gaga song that says you were ‘born this way.’ It’s supposed to be a self-empowering song. But I believe that our self-worth can only truly be discovered when we find who we really are in Christ—not in the mirror, not in other people’s eyes or anything like that, but when we ask God to show us who we really are. And the first thing we can point to is that God loves us so much, He sent His Son down to earth. So that message of self-worth and the message of Christmas are really synonymous.”
Matthew West’s appreciation of God’s gift of His son—and the resulting joy we should feel because of it— is reflected in his CD, “The Heart of Christmas.” It’s a message that’s easy to forget during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but one that we need to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive in our hearts and minds.
To listen to the full interview with Matthew West, visit www.christophers.org/CloseupPodcast.