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Manual Once Upon O Little Town (An Advent Discovery)

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Redemption drew a baby breath that first chilly Christmas night, offering eternal breath to a forlorn world dying to be rescued. And yet even before Jesus lay snuggled up in the manger, the miraculous story of rescue was already being sung about.

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Mary sang about him in the Magnificat Luke 1: Zechariah sang about him in the Benedictus Luke 1: And of course, on the night of his birth, the skies over Shepherds' Field became a vertical stage for hosts of choiring angels. We have literally been created, compelled, and commanded to sing, so it's no surprise that the oldest Christmas traditions are the masterpieces of the hymns: Our sixth annual Christmas event β€” Sing!

An Irish Christmas Tour β€” features 10 timeless hymns none of us should ever forget. It was later set to music by Felix Mendelssohn, which added dashing majesty to the deeply theological truth of the words. This is among our richest hymns in terms of doctrine, but it got off to a bumpy start.

The word 'welkin' meant 'the vault of heaven'. Evangelist George Whitefield did us all a favour by changing the words to what we know today. We have finished the first half of every Irish Christmas concert with a celebratory arrangement of this song, including an Irish reel and cultural Irish dance, which I suspect would have pleased neither Wesley nor Mendelssohn!

If I had to name my three favorite carols, this would definitely be one of them. In its advent or its Old Testament context, imagine the centuries of waiting, longing, and weeping coming to their fruition when people β€” and indeed all of us today in the chaos and emotion that is Christmas β€” can find our ultimate supernatural rest in Christ.

Keith Getty's choice: 10 Christmas carols everyone should know

Israel's strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth thou art; Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart. His hymn, Adeste Fidelis , remained a Latin masterpiece for a hundred years before being translated into English by Rev Frederick Oakeley. For congregational singing, especially when trying to teach harmony or when singing a capella , this carol sings beautifully, which is why it is has often also been a selection to finish our Christmas concerts.

The words came from the pen of the English poet, Christina Rossetti, who was born in London in December, A gifted writer, she dictated her first story to her mother before she was old enough to read and write. She was also lauded as the most beloved poet of her generation. The last stanza has appeared on thousands of Christmas cards: It was published in a hymnal in which Watts translated, interpreted, and paraphrased the Old Testament book of Psalms, overlaying them with the truths of the Gospel. His hymn , Joy to the World , wasn't originally a Christmas hymn, but history has embedded it into our Christmas traditions.

It was one of a series of antiphons that were sung every December, and it isn't hard to imagine the mystic beauty of this hymn echoing off the walls of remote monasteries during the Middle Ages. This particular antiphon was discovered by the English minister and musician John Mason Neale, who rendered it into English and published it in It takes us through the Christmas story, explaining much of the symbolism, and has been a helpful hymn for both children and adults.


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Stuart wanted to draw out parts of the Christmas story, such as the gifts of the Magi, that aren't particularly present in other Christmas hymns and demonstrate how those elements are connected to the gospel story and present throughout. I'm welling up here. The whole world sing back the song which now the angels sing from 'It came upon the Midnight clear'.

The one about the angels finishes with an amazing bit of future-gazing - flinging us forward to the moment when this world is restored like new and Jesus comes to earth once more. That's a perfect vision of eternity for me - one where we get to sing Christmas carols all year round! Of course, no-one's perfect, not even the giants of songwriting who penned these classics.

In the interests of balance, here are just three examples where they could have probably done with just one more draft Jesus was fully human. A breast-feeding, nappy-filling, projectile vomitting, full baby human. And to any of us who've experienced the glory of raising one or more of those creatures, this line is pure fantasy. File this imaginary non-crying baby Jesus with a dog who doesn't bark and a Shane Richie who doesn't burst into song at every possible opportunity. Well this one is just riven with problems. Are we really going to suggest children need to make it through their childhood without making any mistakes?

Jesus was perfect - he's an impossible role model for childhood. Apart from the fact that it's the epitome of 19th Century naff, these songs also cause us to focus on arguably Jesus least important attributes - his mildness was he even mild? Feels like an attempt to enforce Sunday school discipline to me And finally we come to the nadir of Christmas carolling - the song that enables you to feel 'religious' at Christmas without having to engage with the actual Christ story that's probably also why they chose to use it in Love Actually.

About as theologically useful as the Coca-Cola 'Holidays are coming' song, this traditional carol tells the story of a nice king giving alms to the poor during winter.

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So there you have it. The greatest hits and a few misses of Christmas.

I trust that you, like me, are already reaching for that bobble hat, scarf and carol sheet. Enjoy every opportunity to sing this month. And as you glug down that eggnog and feel your cheeks go rosy, may you experience moments that are truly profound. Follow him on Twitter martinsaunders. Reuters Christmas carols are a wonderful thing.

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Sing choirs of angels - sing in exultation! Son of God, love's pure light from 'Silent Night' A glorious image which focuses us in on the central 'meaning' of Christmas - that because he loved the world so much, God came here as a baby to save it. The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more from 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' This line comes from the usually-omitted fourth verse of 'O Little Town', cropped from the hymnbook because the sentences that come before it are a little bit weird.

Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices!

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Sages leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar from 'Angels from the Realms of Glory' A highlight of a deeply theological carol, these words both refer to the wise men or Magi , and inspire us to remember that there's something bigger than all of us, however clever or well-read we might be. To free all those who trust in him from Satan's power and might from 'God rest ye Merry Gentlemen' Unlike Santa, Satan doesn't get much of a mention at Christmas, and while that might seem like a sensible thing, it does leave one wondering exactly what all the blood, sweat and tears of the incarnation were all actually for.

Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay from 'Away in a Manger' If you're anything like me, a few bars of Away in a Manger have you immediately claiming there's something in your eye. And our eyes at last shall see him, through his own redeeming love from 'Once in Royal David's city' What a promise this is - that not only will we sing about Jesus by candlelight, but that one day we'll see him face to face.

The whole world sing back the song which now the angels sing from 'It came upon the Midnight clear' The one about the angels finishes with an amazing bit of future-gazing - flinging us forward to the moment when this world is restored like new and Jesus comes to earth once more. Most Read I'm dreaming of a not weird Christmas Cuba using intimidation tactics against church leaders - report Move to call abortion and assisted suicide 'human rights' is 'evil', says Princeton professor Are vegan diets contributing to malnutrition in wealthy countries?

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