Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Christmas Day

When Charles Wesley’s beloved Christmas hymn was published in 1739 in Hymns and Sacred Poems, it was titled ‘Hymn for Christmas Day’. The opening lines read: “Hark, how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of Kings.” The word welkin is an Old English word for sky or heaven. It was evangelist George Whitefield who changed the opening line to the one we all know and sing, in his Collection in 1753.

Hark! the Herald Angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King;
Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
God and Sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumphs of the Skies,
With th’ angelic Host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Christ by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in Time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s Womb;
Veil’d in Flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail th’ Incarnate Deity!
Pleas’d as Man with men t’ appear,
Jesus, our Immanuel here.

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.

Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble Home;
Rise, the Woman’s conq’ring seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent’s Head;
Adam’s Likeness now efface,
Stamp thine Image in its Place;
Second Adam from above,
Re-instate us in thy Love.

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.
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From Heav’n Above – Advent, Christmas Eve

The Protestant reformer Martin Luther had a great affection for Christmas celebrations. Being a writer of sacred verse and composer of music, Luther naturally wrote music for Christmas. Contrary to popular belief, he did not write ‘Away in Manger.’ What he did write was ‘Vom Himmel Hoch’, known in English as ‘From Heav’n Above to Earth I Come’, for his family’s Christmas Eve celebrations. Luther intended the first seven verses to be sung by a man, in angel costume, and the remaining verses to be sung by children. If the tune sounds slightly familiar, it was, after all, written by the author and composer of ‘A Mighty Fortress.’

“From heav’n above to earth I come
To bear good news to ev’ry home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing:

“To you this night is born a child
Of Mary, chosen Virgin mild;
This little child, of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all the earth.

‘Tis Christ, our God who far on high
Hath heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your salvation be
Himself from sin will make you free.

“He brings those blessing, long ago
Prepared by God for all below,
Henceforth His kingdom open stands
To you, as to the angel bands.

“These are the tokens ye shall mark:
The swaddling-clothes and manger dark.
There ye shall find the Infant laid
By whom the heavens and earth were made.”

Now let us all with gladsome cheer
Follow the shepherds and draw near
To see this wondrous gift of God,
Who hath His only Son bestowed.

Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this child, so young and fair?
The blessed Christ-child lieth there.

Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through whom the sinful world is blest!
Thou com’st to share my misery;
What can we render, Lord, to Thee?

Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How weak art Thou, how poor and small,
That Thou dost choose Thine infant bed
Where ox and as but lately fed!

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
It yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.

For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou, King, so rich and great,
As ’twere Thy heav’n, art throned in state.

Thus hath it pleased Thee to make plain
The truth to sinners poor and vain,
That all the world’s honor, wealth and might,
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

My heart for very joy doth leap;
My lips no more can silence keep.
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradle-song:

Glory to God in highest heav’n,
Who unto us His Son hath giv’n!
While angels sing with pious mirth
A glad new year to all the earth.

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

Saviour of the Nations Come – Advent, December 23

‘Saviour of the Nations Come’ was written by Ambrose, who was Bishop of Milan from 374 to 397, and the mentor of Augustine of Hippo.

Savior of the nations, come,
virgin’s Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood,
but the Spirit of our God,
was the Word of God made flesh–
woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.

Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the Virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
still to be in heaven enthroned.

From the Father forth He came
and returneth to the same,
captive leading death and hell–
high the song of triumph swell!

Thou the Father’s only Son,
hast over sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
when shall we its glories see?

Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin o’ercloud this light;
ever be our faith thus bright.

Praise to God the Father sing,
Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be
Ever and eternally.

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

O Come, Divine Messiah – Advent, December 22

The Advent carol, ‘Venez Divin Messie’, was written sometime in the late 1600s or early 1700s by the French poet Simon-Joseph Pellegrin.

O come, divine Messiah,
Hope grant to us and save us!
You are our life!
O come, o come, o come!

O Son of God, do not delay;
by your body give joy
to all our world in disarray.
Tell to us yet again
of what love you love for us;
many do not know you!
O come, o come, o come!

In Bethlehem, the heavens sang
that the greatest of your benefits
was the gift of your peace.
The world disdains it:
everywhere hearts are divided!
When will you reign!
O come, o come, o come!

You were born for all sinners.
By your grace, O Saviour God,
dissolve in us our night, our fear!
O Lord, may your birth
give us life in the light.
Be thou the deliverance!
O come, o come, o come!

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.

Creator of the Stars of Night – Advent, December 21

The ancient hymn ‘Conditor alme siderum’, Latin for ‘Creator of the stars of night’, dates from at least the 800s. The words are perfect for Advent, looking both backward to the Incarnation and forward to the Second Coming.

Creator of the stars of night
Thy people’s everlasting light,
O Christ, Redeemer, bow Thine ear;
In mercy our petitions hear.

Thou, who, for grief that all mankind
In death their hopeless doom should find,
Didst come to save a guilty race
By healing gifts of heavenly grace;

Who didst our very flesh assume,
Abhorring not the Virgin’s womb;
That so to God on high might rise
An all-atoning Sacrifice;

At whose great Name of glory now
All knees in lowly homage bow;
Whom things in heaven and earth adore,
Their mighty King for evermore:

To Thee, O Holy One! We pray,
Our Judge in that tremendous day;
Ward off, while yet we dwell below
The weapons of our crafty foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might, and glory be,
From age to age eternally. Amen.

Sources: Translation of Latin text by Francis Pott from HymnsandCarolsofChristmas.com. The blog author does not own the embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.

Magnificat – Advent, December 20

The first canticle of the Gospel of Luke is called the Magnificat from the Latin for ‘magnify’. It was sung by Mary when she came to visit her cousin Elizabeth, whose unborn child leapt at the sound of Mary’s voice, causing Elizabeth to exclaim in wonder that the mother of the Lord should visit her. Mary’s response was a song of thanksgiving to the God who showed such grace to the humble.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

Sources: Text from Luke 1:46-55, KJV. The author of the blog does not own embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.

Nunc Dimittus – Advent, December 19

The third of the three canticles sung in the beginning of Luke’s Gospel is the song of Simeon, the man in the temple who waited for the coming of the Messiah and who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen Him. The title Nunc Dimittus is Latin for “now release.” When Simeon saw the infant Jesus, he took Him up in his arms and sang for joy.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

The performance in the clip ends with the Doxology.

Sources: Text from Luke 2:29-32, KJV. The blog author does not own embedded video, using it under section 6.C of YouTube Terms of Service.