Friday, December 19, 2008

The Best Christmas lyrics


1. "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight"
- O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks, 1867
2. "he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found"
- Joy to the World by Isaac Watts, 1719
3. "veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity" 
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley, 1739
4. "and the government shall be upon his shoulders"
- Handel's Messiah, 1741 (click here to watch the Mormons rock it out- I used to make fun of my dad for actually choosing to listen to this kind of stuff). It's not really fair to nominate this as a best lyric, because this is from the Bible. So of course it's good. But as one who sees the Kingdom of God as a present reality (and not merely a future longing), I love to think about this lyric.
5.  "why lies he in such mean estate while ox and (bleep) are feeding- good Christian fear, for sinners here, the silent word is pleading."
- What Child is This? by William Dix, 1865 
6. "long lay the world in sin and error pining ("painful longing"), til he appeared and the soul felt its worth...fall on your knees."
- O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau, 1847

It's interesting to me how "new" these songs are. I guess I had the idea that people have been singing these songs for "hundreds of years." They're pretty new. 18th century is old, but not relative to church history. 

So maybe it's time for a new round of Christmas songs. 

But it will be tough to beat some of these lyrics. And even harder to overcome tradition. Even our church, as non-traditional as we are, is inclined to crank up the classic Christmas songs on Christmas. 

Not that I have a problem with it. I'm usually the one helping to plan the services.

What are your favorite Christmas lyrics? Any suggestions for our Christmas Eve services?

6 comments:

Jason & Jen said...

"Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray"

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, first published in 1833, author unknown

I'll never forget hearing these lyrics the first Christmas after I became a believer. I was on campus during finals week . . . and I was blown away by the truth of the gospel in this song - a song I had heard at Christmas for so many years.

Jen Lee

Metropuritan Mark said...

Jen, that's awesome... a great reason for us to keep singing these songs!!

Todd said...

I've always loved the third stanza of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," written (I think) by Charles Wesley in 1739.

my favorite line is "Born that man no more may die."

also, I just like to say the word "hark!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Todd said...

One more ... I've been listening daily to a song called "Let All Mortal Flesh Be Silence." Two versions ... one by Fernando Ortega and another by Red Mountain Church (love these guys). It's a somber song in a minor chord ... a nice balance for the more cheerful and joyful songs of the season. This song won't inspire you to roast chestnuts or build a snowman, but ironically, this song moves me to joyfulness.

Go here for my post and links to the songs on Amazon.

Jeff said...

I love this line from I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,

"God is not dead nor does he sleep"

and it it's greater context:

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Mindy said...

Mark,
Just read through your blog and came across the Christmas carols. It is interesting that the carols we think are so old really aren't. I was doing some research for my students Christmas party and found that many carols were written around this time because of the changing culture in the church, where up to this point the church was not meant for the worshipper but for the clergy. In the change, carols were written to link the church to the common people. So this was fascinating for me to find, but didn't help me out much when I wanted to explain the traditions of the Baroque period to my students.
Finally, a little aside. My jr. high chorus director taught us how to properly pronounce In Excelsis Deo. So I still have a hard time not focusing in on my In egg-shell-sees day-o!