This one comes to us from none other than Alan Jacobs.

Christmas, properly understood from an adult perspective, is always tinged with melancholy. If we don’t grasp this instinctively, Advent will teach it to us. The church’s year begins with Advent, and Advent begins, really, at that moment when God says that Eve’s offspring will one day crunch the head of the serpent who tempted her. That’s when the waiting starts, and what we’re waiting for is someone to come fix the mess we’ve made of the things that were put in our trust. That He eventually comes is wonderful beyond hope; that we so desperately needed Him to come … well, that’s where the melancholy comes in.

And that’s why the best Christmas song, for me, will always be Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas.”

The song begins with three peals of a bell, and for all we know it could be a funeral bell, what used to be called a “passing bell,” so slow and measured is the pealing. We may be encouraged when Charles tells us, straight off, that not just this bell but all the bells are ringing “the glad glad news” — except that Charles isn’t glad. He is loveless and friendless, and while he doesn’t say so explicitly, you get the sense that much of the blame for his condition is his own. Certainly he doesn’t condemn anyone else.

He has only one hope — or maybe not even that, maybe just a plea: Please come home for Christmas. If that happens … well, let’s just say that what he wishes for places a great weight on one person’s shoulders, more weight than a mere mortal can bear. But if it’s a certain person — if it’s One who can indeed make all things right — then the plea becomes hope, and the hope comes to be fulfilled. In that case the last words of the song will be the best words of all:

There’ll be no more sorrow
no grief and pain
‘cause I’ll be happy at Christmas once again

And then one last peal of the bell, a peal — no doubt this time — for the glad glad news.