Quelle est cette odeur agreable – Advent, December 16

The origin of this French carol is somewhat obscure, beyond the fact that it dates from at least the 1600s. The words of the carol, here translated into English verse by K.W. Simpson, are a quiet reflection on the wonder of the shepherds in seeing and hearing the angel’s announcement of the birth of our Saviour.

What is this fragrance softly stealing?
Shepherds! It sets my heart a-stir!
Never was sweetness so appealing
Never were flowers of spring so fair!
What is this fragrance softly stealing?
Shepherds! It sets my heart a-stir!

What is this Light around us streaming?
Out of the dark with blinding ray!
Purer than Star of Morning’s seeming
Showing our path as plain as day!
What is this Light around us streaming?
Out of the dark with blinding ray!

There, in a Manger with His Mother,
Lieth our Saviour, Born today!
Come away Shepherds; Let none other
Hinder thy coming now away!
There, in a Manger with His Mother,
Lieth our Saviour, Born today!

God in His charity and favour,
     Give of His grace to all a share!
Grace that aboundeth, now and ever,
     Peace that abideth everywhere!
          God in His charity and favour,
          Give of His grace to all a share!

Sources: Text & history from HymnsandCarolsofChristmas.com. The author of the blog does not own the embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.
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What Child is This – Advent, December 15

While ‘What Child is This’ is a Nativity hymn, there is a reflective quality to the rheteorical questions it asks which make it appropriate for the Advent season. The poem was written in the mid-1800s by hymnwriter William C. Dix. The first and the third verses are well known, but the final four lines of the second verse are often missing in hymnal versions of the song, yet they are the key to the answer of the hymn’s opening question. This child is the incarnate Word of God, born to die for the sins of all humanity, including you and I.

What Child is this who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring Him laud,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such low estate
where ox and lamb are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through;
the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
come, peasant, king, to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high.
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
the Babe, the Son of Mary!

Sources: Text & history from Hymnary.org. The author of the blog does not own the embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.

Thou didst leave Thy throne – Advent, December 14th

The Advent hymn ‘Thou didst leave Thy throne’, written by the English hymn writer, Emily E. S. Eliot, in 1864, is very versatile, as it covers every stage of the ministry of Jesus Christ. The first verse speaks of the incarnation of Christ, the second of the birth of Christ, the third of the ministry of Christ – referencing Jesus’ own words that “foxes have holes… but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head” – the fourth of the death of Christ, and the fifth of the imminent return of Christ.

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Sources: Text & history from Hymnary.org. Embedded video is not owned by the author of the blog, and is used under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.

The Babe of Bethlehem – Advent, December 13th

This early 19th century hymn by the American shape note singing master, William Walker, combines the prophecies of the Old Testament with the account of Luke into one song, thus combining the celebration of Advent and the Nativity:

Ye nations all, on you I call, come, hear this declaration.

And don’t refuse this glorious news of Jesus and salvation.

To royal Jews came first the news of Christ the great Messiah,

As was foretold by prophets old, Isaiah, Jeremiah.

To Abraham the promise came, and to his seed for ever,

A light to shine in Isaac’s line, by scripture we discover;

Hail, promised morn! the Savior’s born, the glorious Mediator–

God’s blessed Word made flesh and blood, assumed the human nature.

His parents poor in earthly store, to entertain the stranger

They found no bed to lay his head, but in the ox’s manger:

 No royal things, as used by kings, were seen by those that found him,

 But in the hay the stranger lay, with swaddling bands around him.

On the same night a glorious light to shepherds there appeared,

 Bright angels said, “Be not afraid, although we much alarm you,

The angels said, “Be not afraid, although we much alarm you,

We do appear good news to bear, as now we will inform you.

“The city’s name is Bethlehem, in which God hath appointed,

This glorious morn a Savior’s born, for him God hath anointed;

By this you’ll know, if you will go, to see this little stranger,

His lovely charms in Mary’s arms, both lying in a manger.”

When this was said, straightway was made a glorious sound from heaven

Each flaming tongue an anthem sung, “To men a Savior’s given,

In Jesus’ name, the glorious theme, we elevate our voices,

At Jesus’ birth be peace on earth, meanwhile all heaven rejoices.”

Then with delight they took their flight, and winged their way to glory,

The shepherds gazed and were amazed, to hear the pleasing story;

To Bethlehem they quickly came, the glorious news to carry,

And in the stall they found them all, Joseph, the Babe, and Mary.

The shepherds then returned again to their own habitation,

With joy of heart they did depart, now they have found salvation.

Glory, they cry, to God on high, who sent his Son to save us

This glorious morn the Savior’s born, his name it is Christ Jesus.

Sources: History from Hymnary.org. The blog author does not own the embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.

 

While Shepherds Watched – Advent, December 12th

The angel’s announcement to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20 was a clear declaration that the baby born in Bethlehem is the anticipated Messiah. The Irish poet Nahum Tate was England’s poet laureate when he wrote the simple verse narration of Luke’s account in ‘While Shepherds Watched’ in 1700. In the video clip, the poem is sung to Handel’s arrangement.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground,
an angel of the Lord came down,
and glory shone around.

“Fear not,” said he for mighty dread
had seized their troubled mind
“glad tidings of great joy I bring
to you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town, this day
is born of David’s line
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord;
and this shall be the sign:

“The heavenly babe you there shall find
to human view displayed,
all simply wrapped in swaddling clothes
and in a manger laid.”

 Thus spoke the angel. Suddenly
appeared a shining throng
of angels praising God, who thus
addressed their joyful song:

“All glory be to God on high,
and to the earth be peace;
to those on whom his favor rests
goodwill shall never cease.”

Sources: History & text from Hymnary.org. The author of the blog does not own the embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.

Remember, O Thou Man – Advent, December 11th

Whether 17th century music master Thomas Ravenscroft wrote ‘Remember O Thou Man’ or simply harmonized a pre-existing folk carol for his song collection Melismata in 1611 is not known, but the song is a fitting one for Advent. With ten stanzas, ‘Remember’ is seldom performed in its entirety, but as the carol tells the story of the shepherds who heard the angel’s message, it reminds humanity of our need of a Saviour.

Remember, O thou Man,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
Remember, O thou Man,
Thy time is spent.
Remember, O thou Man,
How thou camest to me then,
And I did what I can.
Therefore repent.

Remember Adam’s fall,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
Remember Adam’s fall
From Heaven to Hell.
Remember Adam’s fall,
How we were condemned all
To Hell perpetual,
There for to dwell.

Remember God’s goodness,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
Remember God’s goodness
And promise made.
Remember God’s goodness,
How his only Son he sent
Our sins for to redress.
Be not afraid.

The Angels all did sing,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
The Angels all did sing
On Sion hill.
The Angels all did sing
Praises to our Heavenly King,
And peace to man living,
With right good will.

The Shepherds amazed was,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
The Shepherds amazed was
To hear the Angels sing.
The Shepherds amazed was
How this should come to pass.
That Christ our Messias
Should be our King.

To Bethlehem did they go,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
To Bethlehem did they go
This thing to see.
To Bethlehem did they go
To see whether it was so,
Whether Christ was born or no,
To set us free.

As the Angels before did say,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
As the Angels before did say.
So it came to pass.
As the Angels before did say.
They found him wrapt in hay
In a manger where he lay.
So poor he was.

In Bethlehem was he born,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
In Bethlehem was he born
For mankind dear.
In Bethlehem was he born
For us that were forlorn.
And therefore took no scorn
Our sins to bear.

In a manger laid he was,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
In a manger laid he was
At this time present.
In a manger laid he was.
Between an ox and an ass,
And all for our trespass,
Therefore repent.

Give thanks to God always,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
Give thanks to God always
With hearts most jolly.
Give thanks to God always
Upon this blessed day.
Let all men sing and say,
Holy, Holy.

Sources: History from Encyclopedia Britannica. Text from HymnsandCarolsofChristmas.com. Blog author does not own embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.

Gabriel’s Message – Advent, December 10

During Advent, the angelic announcements of the Incarnation of our Lord are remembered. The Annunciation of the messenger Gabriel to the virgin Mary in Nazareth was in fulfillment of not only the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 which said “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel“; but also of God’s curse on the serpent in Genesis 3:15 that “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The Advent carol ‘Gabriel’s Message’ is a translation by Sabine Baring-Gould of the traditional ‘Birjina gaztetto bat zegoen’ from the Basque region of northeastern Spain. The words of the carol simply relate the scene of Luke 1:26-38:

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
‘All hail,’ said he, ‘thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favoured lady.’
Gloria!

‘For known a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honour thee,
thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold;
most highly favoured lady.’
Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
‘To me be as it pleaseth God,’ she said,
‘My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name’:
most highly favoured lady.
Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ was born
in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say
‘Most highly favoured lady.’
Gloria!

Sources: Carol text from Hymnary.org. Verses from KJV. The blog author does not own the embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.