One of my favorite memories in Bangladesh was having the opportunity to teach Christmas carols to little ones at a children’s home. Though it was only the month of June, the children wanted to learn these carols so that they might be able to practice and perform them for a special program in December.
With our best a cappella renditions of commonly-known songs such as “Joy to the World” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” my roommate Bethany and I led the children in learning these songs line-by-line, and sometimes even syllable-by-syllable (I felt like Maria in The Sound of Music when she first teaches the children do-re-mi!).
My personal favorite tune to teach was “The Little Drummer Boy.” With its repetitious rhythm and slower pace, the children caught onto it quicker than the other carols. However, they always seemed to have a little trouble singing “Pa rum pum pum pum” whenever the phrase came up in the song. Though the children were familiar with English, I think they were confused as to why we were leading them in singing nonsensical syllables.
After we explained that “Pa rum pum pum pum” was supposed to sound like the beating of a drum, they began to catch onto the silly syllables as we clapped to each syllable together to keep on beat.
Though it was challenging at first to teach songs in English to Bangla-speaking children, I found it refreshing to have the opportunity to explain the meanings of these songs to the children so as to simplify the sometimes outdated conversational English (“Let men their songs employ” can be tricky!).
In simplifying the meaning of the lyrics down to the very heart of what each song meant, I realized the power of the words that I so often overlook when they’re playing on the radio here in the States. I appreciated anew the truth of the words as Bethany, the children, and I sang in unity–eliminating any language barrier so that we could praise our King together.
It was truly a privilege to communicate the meaning of Christmas to these little ones through music and to remind them that their Savior does not only get to be their focus at Christmastime, but He can be their focus and their hope in every season.
I pray that if they’re singing these carols for a Christmas program this season, they allow the truth of the words to sink into their hearts beyond this season to their days ahead.
And I pray I will do the same.