Revised!

This Christmas season, as I have always done—for, oh, how many years now?—I will be singing one of my favorite Christmas songs: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

I know. I know, it's a thoroughly secular song! Don't get on my case about it, and don't wreck it for me either. I'm still gonna sing it. 

I will admit it's a little odd for a pastor's favorite. I mean: "Through the years we all may be together, if the fates allow"?  Well, what do you expect from Hollywood? It's a thoroughly Hollywood-en movie tune (first sung by Judy Garland, in 1943, as a matter of fact, for the movie Meet Me In St. Louis.)  But it's still a favorite for me with its beautiful dreamy melody. 

I'll bet you didn't know that Jesus Christ is all over this song. Let me tell you about it...

Hugh Martin is the one who wrote it— a very talented composer and producer of musicals for Hollywood back in the forties and fifties. But he was a very troubled man as well. Hugh's morose disposition kept showing up in his work, even in the Christmas song he wrote. In fact, his original version was downright depressing: 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last. 
From now on we'll all be living in the past. 
Through the years we all may be together
If the fates allow,
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow.

See what I mean? The words were so depressing, in fact, that Judy Garland just rebelled: "I can't sing this thing!" she complained, "People will think I'm a monster!" When a producer suggested changing the lyrics, Hugh flatly refused! "No! I'm not changin' a thing," he insisted. After all, those words were a perfect reflection of his view of life! He was miles away from Christmas happiness! 

Finally, Tom Drake, the male star in the movie, took Hugh aside and pleaded with him: "Hugh, you've created a wonderful melody here. We all love it so much. Don't let them throw it away! Change the words!" 

"Oh, all right!" Hugh finally conceded. "But they won't make any sense!" 

And so, the happy, uplifting song we all now know was "nonsense" to the man who wrote it:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light. 
From now on our troubles will be out of sight.
Through the years we all may be together, 
If the fates allow. 
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough...

But that's not the end of the story. Hugh continued to enjoy tremendous success as a screen composer, but along with that success came even more disillusionment with life. Several years later, Hugh was introduced to a doctor in New York—the now notorious Dr. Max Jacobsen, who was eventually indicted for dealing drugs to movie stars and celebrities. Hugh became one of Jacobsen's 'patients'; he spent ten years caught in the cruel grip of drug addiction. 

One day, during a trip to London, Hugh suffered a complete mental and physical breakdown and had to be committed to a psychiatric hospital. His life was a total ruin! 

Perhaps I should let Hugh tell the story. 

"It was the lowest moment of my life, and I will never forget it. I was so desperate. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, and couldn't stop crying. I cried for three weeks! And finally, one day, roaming around the hospital, I came to across a little chapel, way down on the basement floor. I went inside and saw a Cross on the wall. I got down on my knees and said: "Oh! My God! I don't know if I'm going to live or die or go crazy, but if you are there, please come to me! I will serve you forever. If only you will come and take me out of this miry pit!"

That very night, something happened to this man! Something quite similar to the things that happened that first Christmas night. The Son of God found a "Bethlehem" and came! Hugh Martin began to experience the awesome love and presence of Christ in his life! A few weeks later, Hugh surrendered his life completely to Jesus. He writes, also, of that decision: 

"I felt the way a sick man feels when he's allowed to go outside for the first time in months, or the way a condemned man feels when he's let out of prison. I began to sense that all the dreadful things in my life were being swept away forever and as far away as the east is from the west."

Years later, Hugh Martin went back to his  Christmas Song, revised it and gave it a second verse (did you know?). Here's how it goes: 

Have yourself a blessed little Christmas.
Christ the King is born. 
Let your voices ring upon this happy morn.
Have yourself a blessed little Christmas
Serenade the earth. 
Tell the world we celebrate the Savior's birth.

Refrain: Let us gather to sing to Him 
              And to bring to Him our praise. 
              Son of God and friend to all, 
              To the end of all our days. 

Let us all proclaim the joyous tidings. 
Voices raised on high. 
Send this carol soaring up into the sky. 
And have yourself a blessed little Christmas now.

Like I said, I'll be singing this old Hollywood tune all through the Christmas season! Especially the revised edition. 

"Revised"! Isn't that what Christmas is all about? 

See you Sunday! Merry Christmas!     RAS

 

Jesus is Lord
Make Him Your King