Friday, December 24, 2010

O Come All Ye Faithful

Christmastime has been a little different for me since I've started college. The joy and excitement of Christmas is too often swallowed up in the drudgery of finals. Not only that, but as I've grown older, it's easier for me to understand why Christmas is a hard time of the year for some people. Through tragedies in my own life and in the lives of those close to me, I have learned that truly, "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."

But, like in Longfellow's poem, I have also realized that "God is not dead nor doth He sleep." God is aware of our needs; our days are known, and our "years shall not be numbered less."  

One of the things that has brought me to this realization is the spirit of Christmas carols. 

Christmas carols bring me closer to Christ. This year, when I haven't been feeling as "Christmas-y" as I would like, I go to the piano and sing Christmas hymns. Almost instantly, my focus shifted from the hustle and confusion of this world to the stillness of the manger, the faith of the wise men, or the glory of the night sky in Bethlehem, ablaze with angels. Singing Christmas carols enables me to focus on the wonder of God's love, and how it has changed me . . . it is incredible to me how His love has the supernal power to change mankind for the better.  

It is hard for me to choose a favorite Christmas carol . . . every year it changes based on my experiences of the year. I have perennial favorites, such as Silent Night (especially in the original German), and O Come, All Ye Faithful. But this year I have been drawn to more obscure Christmas carols. One less-sung Christmas carol that I've loved for a while is Once in Royal David's City. I get chills every time I sing the last verse: 
"And our eyes at last shall see him, 
Through His own redeeming love; 
For that child, so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heav'n above.
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone." 
Ah. Love it. 

I've also been re-introduced to the last verse of the First Noel. I forgot how beautiful and powerful it is: 

"Now let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of naught
And with His blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel--
Born is the King of Israel!" 

Another hymn I've discovered this year is Angels From the Realms of Glory. It was written by James Montgomery, a British poet and editor. Montgomery also penned A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief and Prayer is the Soul's Sincere Desire. It impresses me how faithful Montgomery was, despite all the trials and heartache he went through, including imprisonment. 

Here are some verses of his Christmas hymn that really touched my heart: 
"Angels from the realms of glory, 
Wing your flight o'er all the earth; 
Ye who sang creation's story, 
Now proclaim Messiah's birth . . . 

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar; 
Seek the great desire of nations, 
Ye have seen His natal star . . . .

Saints before the altar bending, 
Watching long in hope and fear, 
Suddenly the Lord descending, 
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship, come and worship, 
Worship Christ, the newborn King!" 

I especially love that last verse.

One last song: One of my absolute favorite Christmas songs is a German Christmas carol called O Du Froehliche, or, in English, "O How Joyfully." It's a beautiful song that exudes the light and joy that we should be feeling at Christmastime. I found an English poetry translation that does a pretty good job of capturing the German meaning (and it makes a lot more sense than the literal translation): 

"Oh how joyfully, oh how blessedly, 
Comes the glory of Christmastime!
To a world so lost in sin, 
Christ the Saviour enters in:
Praise Him, praise Him Christians, evermore!

Oh how joyfully, oh how blessedly, 
Comes the glory of Christmastime!
Jesus, born in a lowly stall, 
With His grace redeems us all:
Praise Him, praise Him Christians, evermore!

Oh how joyfully, oh how blessedly, 
Comes the glory of Christmastime!
Hosts of angels from on high, 
Sing, rejoicing in the sky: 
Praise him, praise Him Christians, evermore!" 

Singing Christmas carols gives me a way to express my testimony in a way that mere words alone cannot possibly do. No language in the world is perfect; each has its corruptions and we nobody can express themselves in the way they'd like to. I feel like music is often the closest thing we have to expressing ourselves the way we were meant to; the way we yearn to. 

Music is certainly a way that God has shown His love for me. And I'm grateful for Christmas hymns that lift my spirit, allow me to refocus, and teach me the true meaning of Christmas: 

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people. 
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  (Luke 2:10-14)


  1. I love Christmas songs, too! They are just wonderful. O Du Froeliche is one of my faves auf Deutsch aber The First Noel auf Englisch ist am besten. Und viel andere...zu viel zu namen. Merry Christmas! You can come & put cookie plates together for me any day!

  2. Thank you for this post and for the reminder of what Christmas really is.