Christmas: The Post-game Show
“Hi, my name is Natalie. I’m a big fan of your station. My family supports you through prayer, friendraiser, the sharathon etc. I want to first thank you for all you do. But I also have a concern. I have noticed this year that you are playing more secularly themed Christmas music than I remember in the past. I became a new listener at Christmas time several years ago. I was drawn to your station by the variety of beautiful songs that talked about the birth of Jesus Christ and loving others etc. I became a year round listener and supporter because of this. This year, I’ve been hearing more “holiday classics” (such as White Christmas, Let it snow, jingle bell rock etc) than I remember hearing in the past. You played them some in the past, but the overwhelming amount of music was still about Christ’s birth. But now, I feel I’m just as likely to hear a song that doesn’t say anything about Christ as I am to hear a song about Christ’s birth. I didn’t want to contact the station about this at first, because your ministry does so much for my family and friends. And I in no way wanting to be critical. But this morning when I heard “Here comes Santa Clause” by Gene Autrey, I had to e-mail my concern. I know these are “Christmas Classics”, but what do they have to do with the birth of Christ? Santa is part of the commercialization and secularization that has taken over the season and overshadows the message of Christ and His love for us. Please don’t keep doing what “the world” does at this time of year. I can hear about Santa, reindeer, sleigh rides and mistletoe in lots of other places. I can only get music that is Christ centered in a handful of places. Other than WTOP traffic reports, WGTS is the only station our family listens to. WE LOVE YOUR STATION because it is so Christ centered. Please don’t loose your focus. For the first time in years I find myself turning WGTS off because I repeatedly can’t hear anything that points me to Christ in some of the lyrics. I know the classics are still “family friendly” but they aren’t “Christ centered”. I’m disappointed. I still appreciate what you do, but I’m concerned that you’re losing touch with what you do best this Christmas season. I hope I’m wrong, and that by some fluke, I’ve just been catching lots of the secular songs on the air. I miss being able to turn 91.9 on and know that what I hear through your music will reflect the message of the Gospel. I’m still a fan, but I’m becoming a more cautious one. I thought you should know, just in case I’m not the only one who feels this way. You are in my thoughts and prayers.” – Natalie
I really appreciate your email, and your thoughtfulness and kindness while writing it. I know it’s very early January as I respond to this, so it’s a bit like calling play-by-play on a game that just ended, but I know that you raise a concern that I’ve heard several times this year, and since we work on getting our Christmas music just right each year, and make changes each year, I want to respond for both this year and next.
I want you to know that we rely on emails exactly like yours to help us determine how we’re doing. If I had to give this year’s Christmas music a grade, based upon listener feedback, I’d say we were a good, solid B. We did several things very well, and missed several things. In some cases our ideas were good, but we had a few missteps as well. As the Program Director, I take responsibility for those missteps, and I can assure you that next year we’ll do better. One of those items was in not communicating with our audience what we were trying to accomplish in December, during the month of November. That will change next year. And, even though this blog post is after the fact, I know other folks may have the same questions you did, and I want my answer to be available to them.
WGTS 91.9 has a specific intent in our Christmas programming, one that is reviewed every year with our pastoral counselors. Over the past 10 years that WGTS 91.9 has implemented this approach, (using a small percentage of secular Christmas songs familiar to people who donâ€™t normally listen to Christian radio), the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Many listeners, who never listen to Christian radio, find WGTS 91.9. Some even make it their new radio â€œhomeâ€ after the Holidays.
Our Christmas music programming is primarily an evangelistic tool. When we polled our listeners, the overwhelming majority told us they would support this type of ministry outreach at Christmas. When we play these songs on WGTS 91.9 at Christmas, we ask our listeners to cover them in prayer. These songs are â€œhooksâ€ designed to attract people who donâ€™t normally listen to WGTS 91.9. Christmas brings back fond memories and excited anticipation for most people. Certain Christmas songs help bring back those memories; these are the songs most of our listeners remember growing up with.
You may have experienced the reality that your friends and family are a little more open to hearing about spiritual things during this time of year. Many that would never go to church normally seem to be more open to doing so during the holidays. Many friends and family who would never listen to Christian radio are more open to do so when theyâ€™re listening to a station playing Christmas music they are familiar with.
I want to be clear with you that so that thereâ€™s no doubtâ€”the primary focus of WGTS 91.9â€™s music at Christmas is Jesus Christ and His birth. While Santa Claus is a mythical figure, there really was a St. Nicholas. Born into a wealthy family during the fourth century, Nicholas was a Christian man who loved children and his neighbors, and spent his life privately giving gifts to the unfortunate. These acts of Christian charity â€“ usually made secretly â€“ probably led to the practice of exchanging gifts at Christmas. Nicholas gave to others expecting nothing in return. It is this selfless generosity that made Nicholasâ€™ gifts a reflection of the gift God gave us in His Son. Some Christians use Christmas as a time to teach their children how to practice selfless giving like St. Nicholas. More information can be found online at www.reasonfortheseason.com.
Dr. James Dobson offers an interesting perspective on this subject:
â€œChristmas memories are among the most cherished of all my childhood reminiscences. The fantasy of Santa Claus coming on Christmas Eve was an important part of the fun. Iâ€™m reluctant to deprive todayâ€™s kids of an experience that was so exciting for me. On the other hand, I understand the concerns expressed by many Christian parents about the pagan celebration of Christmas. They donâ€™t want to link Santa Claus, a mythical figure, with the reality of the baby Jesus who was born in Bethlehem of Judea. They have good reason to fear that they might weaken the validity of the Christmas story by mixing it with fantasy. So this is the dilemma â€“ Santa is fun, but Santa could be confusing. What are Christian parents to do? This is a judgment call to be made by a given family. Shirley and I chose to play the â€œSanta gameâ€ with our kids, and we had no difficulties teaching them who Jesus was and is. Other families regret mixing the two images. What is best? I donâ€™t know. But if I had to do it over, I would still let my children thrill to the excitement of Santaâ€™s arrival down the chimney on Christmas Eve.â€
I can assure you that all the music we play is prayerfully reviewed by our programming staff and pastoral counselors, with input from other Christians in focus groups. Songs are are chosen to make sure that they reflect the Biblical values of family and relationships. They are selected within the entire scope of programming on the station to impact listeners with an uplifting; positive; family friendly; and inspirational message that unmistakably points to Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that the vast majority of songs you hear on WGTS 91.9 during Christmas still point to Christ, the true reason Christmas is celebrated. Again we have included specific classic Christmas songs most of our listeners remember growing up with that remind them of Christmas. However, we donâ€™t abandon the message that Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas, and that He is the Savior of the world. That is our message during Christmas, and that is our message all during the year. We think if youâ€™ll listen, youâ€™ll hear the message clearly, as listeners have over the past 10 years.
Our goal is always to bring new listeners to the radio station, so they can hear the message of Godâ€™s love. We think thereâ€™s no better time than Christmas, to find people who donâ€™t usually listen to Christian radio, and give them a reason to do so.
Now that a new year has begun, weâ€™re making our resolutions like everyone else, and weâ€™re resolving to improve upon our efforts for the coming Christmas. Thank you for your honest feedback, patience, and support.