Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days."

Hymn: “God of Grace and God of Glory” – Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969)
Typical Tune: CWM RHONDDA

On this first day of 2014, I will interrupt the carols of Christmas and Epiphany to reflect on my favorite beginning-a-new-year hymn. While it is a fairly new hymn by comparison, it is one which most of us know and can sing a phrase here and there from it.

It is a hymn for the church to sing about herself with prayerlines like:
•    On thy people pour thy power.
•    Crown thine ancient church’s story, bring her bud to glorious flower.
•    Free our hearts to work and praise.
•    Bend our pride to thy control.

I’ll deal with other phrases from this hymn later in my trek toward 365 of these thoughts, but for today, let’s deal with the closing phrase – almost a refrain – of the second stanza. In case you don’t have that one memorized (!), here it is:
    Lo! the hosts of evil ‘round us scorn our Christ, assail his ways.
    Fears and doubts too long have bound us; free our hearts to work and praise.
    Grant us wisdom, grand us courage for the living of these days,
        for the living of these days.


This is how we find ourselves: Hosts of the Evil One gang up on us, make fun of our Lord Christ and try to get in the way of all our progress on his behalf. We are tied up with fear and doubt.

This is our prayer: Please God, come and cut us loose – not just so we can run about as we please, but so we can do your work and praise your name. Pour out your wisdom and courage upon us -- as a church, as individuals – because we have days ahead for which we are accountable, days in which we want to live fully as your people.

For his day, Fosdick was considered a liberal, caught in the middle of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 1920’s and 30’s. An outspoken opponent of racism and injustice, he was the first pastor of the great Riverside Church in New York. If you read the full hymn, you will see some of his causes included.

Hardly anyone today would consider him a liberal… more of a centrist if anything. But his great mind and deep commitment to the future of the church, especially in America, led him to write this wonderful hymn in 1930 for our consideration on this first day of January. May we sing this refrain as we begin every day: “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days.”

A Congregational Singing of This Hymn (First Presbyterian in Houston)

Paul Manz Setting on the Organ (Concordia College)

Monday, December 30, 2013

"Consider well and bear in mind what our good God for us has done."

Carol: “Good People All, This Christmas Time” – 12th Century Irish
Tune: WEXFORD CAROL

Because this is not one of those familiar ones that come tripping off the tongue, I will print the first stanza; when you listen to it, you’ll realize how very Irish it is!

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son.
With Mary, Joseph we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day.
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.


I’m using this carol NOW because it seems to go along with our taking down the tree and re-packing all our Christmas decorations – telling us not to forget why we have just celebrated this high, holy church season.

Consider well: think sincerely on the past few weeks of Advent’s anticipation and Christmas’s fulfillment. 

Bear in mind: carry with you into the next year the truth, the joy, the shared love of the recent days.

It’s a bit archaic, but we still hear people say (especially in arguments), “Now bear in mind…” That translates to “Now don’t forget.” Seems that this phrase from the ancient Irish carol is reminding us to remember what God has done for us in the midst of all our partying, eating, singing, concerting, etc.

Something you might do to help you with this: Write those first four lines of the carol on a large piece of paper and place it on the top of the last tub you store away after undecorating. Then when you open the box next year, you’ll be reminded of what the season is all about BEFORE you start decorating!

Hear This Carol with Allison Krauss with Yo-Yo Ma

"Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in."

Carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)
Tune: ST. LOUIS

Before we get into the Epiphany season, while we’re still in Christmastide, I want to hit a couple of significant carolines – and this one qualifies:

    “No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
    Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”


As mentioned before in one of my hymnlines on the first half of this stanza (“How silently… the wondrous gift is given”), this line follows that thinking. The word meek is so often categorized with “weak,” and that’s not a good thing. The first synonym for meek is humble – then submissive and compliant. All three of those fit better into our understanding of the biblical concept (and this carol’s meaning) of those meek souls who stand ready to receive the Christ Child: humbly, in submission, open to being shaped or molded.

The word that always jumps out at me in this hymnline is the word “still.” Even now, over 2,000 years later, the dear Christ is standing by, reading to make his entrance into the lives of the meek souls. About thirty years after the manger event, the grown-up Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) People of gentleness and kindness seem to have a special place in the mind and heart of God, and he is STILL being welcomed and received by folk of that ilk.

He still comes to us. Be still to receive him.

[Everybody skips this stanza, it seems… in worship and on recordings. I couldn’t find another good recording online to post. I guess you’ll have to sing it to yourself!]

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Word of the Father now in flesh appearing."

"Nativity" - El Greco
"Word of the Father now in flesh appearing."
Carol: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” – Latin Hymn (Various Translators)
Tune: ADESTE FIDELES


This is one of the few carols (or hymns for that matter) that has no rhyme scheme. Have you ever noticed that? It doesn’t lessen the impact. As a hymn-writer myself, I’ve spent many hours counting the exact syllables and trying make things rhyme; but when the various translators of this carol worked out the details, they didn’t find assonance to be important.

This carol seems to fling wide the gates of Bethlehem and invite us humans in, encouraging us to come joyfully and triumphantly to see this thing which has come to pass. Angels are invited to once again sing their “glory to God in the highest” refrain. In the final stanza (in most hymnals), we sing, “Yea, Lord, we greet thee,” or in modern English: “Yes, Lord, we welcome you!” That may be MY favorite moment in the carol. And the thought continues with, “Jesus, to thee be all glory given” because you are the “Word of the Father now in flesh appearing.”

Today’s hymnline is a versification of the John 1 passage: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory…” I doubt we can truly look upon the holy in any way BUT adoringly… with adoration.

Today and every day and night throughout the year, let us come adoring Christ the Lord – the One who comes filled to the brim with grace and truth. After our adoration, let’s allow him to fill us with both those attributes. If we would do that, our 2014 would be a whole different year.

Celtic Woman Singing This Carol

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"O hush the noise, you folk of strife, and hear the angels sing."

"O hush the noise, you folk of strife, and hear the angels sing."
Carol: “It Came upon the Midnight Clear” – Edmund H. Sears (1810-1876)
Tune: CAROL

We’re back to my wife Carlita’s favorite carol one more time before we get to Christmas Day. I agree with her that this one has too many great lines to overlook any of them.

People of strife – those who stir up trouble wherever they go: I think that’s to whom this hymnline is addressed. We know people like that, and we all hope we are not one of them! Sometimes these are overtly hostile, picking fights, bullying their way through life. Others are much more subtle – the passive/aggressive types who on the surface seem so positive, kind… even compassionate; however, they are constantly plotting ways to get their own way.

Noise-makers are only fitting for New Year’s Eve parties. Human noise-makers are out of place just about anywhere they show up.

We know of times when warring nations have called a total truce during this holiday season. The most famous of these is the one when all was truly quiet on the Western Front on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 1914 during World War I. They say enemy troops were crossing the battle lines to greet one another with hugs and handshakes… even tears. Some actually exchanged trinkets.

This hymnline calls the conflict-makers to cut it out, at least for these holy days. Instead, let the troubled souls hear the angels call for “peace on earth” and “goodwill to all.” Wouldn’t it be great if these were heard, heeded and applied… and that even the most localized strife (spousal abuse, child abuse, imposed mental anguish, etc.) would be quieted and peace might reign where strife has run rampant?

With the disciples at the upper room table, we must ask, “Is it I, Lord?” If the answer is “yes,” we need to hush the noise and hear the words of the Christmas angels.

Nobody seems to record this stanza, but Josh Groban’s version is worth hearing.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Then haste we to show him the praises we owe him."

Carol: “All Poor Men and Humble” – Katharine Emily Roberts (1877-1962)
Typical Tune: POVERTY CAROL

We’re running out of time. We’re to the final Sunday of Advent, so if we’re going to extend our praises in the direction of the Christ Child, we’d better get with it!

Hopefully, we’ve all had a praise-filled season – four weeks packed full of joy as we have sung, played and read the various carols which invade us during December. Every time I’ve been offered the opportunity to join in singing the familiar melodies and texts, I have taken full advantage of it. I hope you have as well.

We saw a staged production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” this past week. I enjoyed it all, and I have to admit it may have been the highlight of the season for me. When the audience was invited to sing “White Christmas,” the Fair Park Music Hall came alive with a congregational sound because everyone knows the first part of that American classic. True, I wish it had been “Joy to the World,” but it was a spiritual experience – maybe not Christian exactly, but spiritual nonetheless.

While this may be a totally unfamiliar carol, let this hymnline from "All Poor Men and Humble" catch your attention and hold it throughout the day, especially as you worship with our church families.

Showing Christ the praises we are owing Christ is a year-long, life-long calling for believers. At no other time of the year are we called upon to do it so often! So let’s not dilly dally; rather, may we with all haste take up the song(s) of Christmas.

Today as we worship corporately, let us rear back and sing! May the glad songs rush from our lips.

Choral Setting of This Carol

Friday, December 20, 2013

"The wrong shall fail, the right prevail."

"The wrong shall fail, the right prevail."
Carol: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Tune: WALTHAM

This carol based on a poem by a great American author is the favorite of many, and it’s easy to see why thoughtful singers would appreciate this text.

This hymnline follows the declaration “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.” Though written in 1863 during the Civil War years, before the “God Is Dead” movement attributed to the writings of Nietzsche in 1882, Longfellow made this argument for the existence and activity of God, refuting what became known as theothanatology.

Earlier in the carol, Longfellow’s head-bowed despair had brought him to the conclusion that peace does not reign in society because hate is so strong that it derides the concept of “peace on earth goodwill to men.” Interestingly, the belfry’s pealing brought him renewed hope that the promise spoken to the shepherds is still a possibility.

Those of us who have a positive outlook and are possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure seem to constantly arrive at the conclusion that good will always prevail over evil – that in the final analysis, right trumps wrong.

May the ringing of bells during this season bolster our confidence in this abiding truth. May the song of the angels resound in our heads even during trying, stressful, even warring times. In this modern secular culture, the sense of the sacred may be waning; however, it is up to us believers to speak a word in favor of the survival of God once made manifest in a manger, now illustrated through our very lives.

Andy Williams Sings This Familiar Carol

Casting Crowns with a New Tune for This Text

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"If you take good heed to the angel's word, you'll forget your flock, you'll forget your herd."


"If you take good heed to the angel's word, you'll forget your flock, you'll forget your herd."

Carol: “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow” – African American Spiritual

“Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Most of us know this angelic message ‘by heart,’ having heard it read from the KJV for most of our lives… at church and at home. After the Lord’s Prayer, 23rd Psalm, and John 3:16, this may be the most quotable scripture!

To summarize what the angel told the shepherds:
- Don’t fear.
- This is good news.
- This news is for everybody.
- A Savior is born.
- Go find the Baby!

If we heed that message, we are likely to put everything behind us and move forward to seek out the King of kings and to enjoy a lifetime of following after him.

In the case of the shepherds, forgetting the flock and the herd would mean letting go of their livelihood – at least for a short time while they scurry into Bethlehem.

Some people are genuinely called to give up their career to follow an inner urging to give themselves completely to some ministry or mission opportunity; and that’s a wonderful thing. However, ALL of us may need to step away from our work-load for a brief time to center our attention on the manger Child. From another carol: “All ye beneath life’s crushing load whose forms are bending low…” Our occupation may occupy so much of our attention that we are bent low by the stress; we may cater so much to the income-producing portion of our lives that we simply have no time to rise up and follow the path of peace… and find the restful hope promised even in this life to those who whole-heartedly seek Christ.
As much as is possible, let’s forget some of the stuff that is weighing us down – maybe it’s our vocation – maybe it’s something else. Let’s take heed to the angel’s word, rise up and follow our spiritual siblings to find anew the new-born King.

The King’s Singers

"Veiled in flesh the God-head see. Hail the incarnate Deity."

"Veiled in flesh the God-head see. Hail the incarnate Deity."
Carol: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Tune: MENDELSSOHN
Sculpture by Kevin Frances Gray

I told you we’d be back to this one again, and here we are with a little more Wesleyan theology!

The God-head – the Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – Parent, Child, Presence. However you express it, the God-head is all there is of God… the entirety of his essence. And here, Wesley calls on us to look upon the flesh-encased depiction of all that God is! Skin, draped over the totality of the Divine. Now, that should give us pause!

The incarnate Deity is in our midst, and we should offer him his due: the highest, most-sincere praise. “Hail, King Jesus!”

During these last days of Advent, don’t miss seeing/realizing that incarnation!

Susan Boyle with Choir

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Bind all peoples in one heart and mind. Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease."


"Bind all peoples in one heart and mind. Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease."

Carol: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” – Latin Hymn
Tune: VENI EMMANUEL

This plainsong Advent carol is one of those prayer hymns we’ve discussed already. In this one, we singers are not only asking Messiah to come; we are also making several requests of him upon his arrival and upon the establishment of his Kingdom:

1) Come and cheer our spirits.
2) Disperse the gloomy clouds of night.
3) Send death’s dark shadows away.
4) Bring order to all things.
5) Show us the path of knowledge and lead us in that path.

In the final stanza, we encounter today’s hymnline. We plead for true camaraderie of all peoples in compassion and in thought. “Bring us together,” we pray. “Give a sense of cooperation and agreement. Help us to accept one another’s differences and make those differences work for the good of the Kingdom.”

To do that, the envy, strife and quarrels need to cease. Our praying continues, “Emmanuel, now that you, O God, are with us, call a cease-fire between the warring factions worldwide.”

I know this carol has some definite Jewish overtones – the people of Israel are renewing their belief that Emmanuel shall come to them. As Christians who are confident that Messiah has already made his appearance on this terrestrial ball, we make all those same requests listed above, and we, too, seek commonality of passion and theology; we, too, have had it with the disagreements that arise within the church out of anger, envy and strife. Except for the instigators, nobody likes a good church fight!

As part of a denomination that has suffered its fair share of disagreement – especially in recent years – this prayer carol takes on a fuller significance. When I pray this carol, I mean it: I beg the Good Shepherd to come to enfold all his children who find themselves at war within the flock.

For all of us, conflict is on display worldwide. For some, the conflict may be within their community, their family, or even within themselves. Wherever they are found, may the struggles stop and reconciliation reign.

In the refrain, we are called to rejoice in the promise that Emmanuel continues to come to our rescue. Ultimately, we will enjoy a worldwide heavenly peace. Meanwhile, we keep on prayer-singing!

Great rendition by a cappella men’s group
(does not include this stanza!)

Big choral arrangement that uses this stanza

Monday, December 16, 2013

"So prepare to be the home where such a mighty Guest may come."

"So prepare to be the home where such a mighty Guest may come."
Carol: “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” – Charles Coffin (1676-1749)
Common Tunes: PUER NOBIS, WINCHESTER NEW

I grew up in the Baptist denomination, and none of our hymns had the word “Baptist” in the title! Other denominations, however, often include this hymn about John the Baptist’s announcing the coming of Messiah; as the forerunning cousin of Jesus, that was his calling.

Note: It is important to include the apostrophe after Baptist; otherwise, it sounds like a whole denomination of immersers is wailing on a river’s edge!

The stanza in which this hymnline sits says this in total:
    Let ev’ry heart be cleansed from sin,
    Make straight for God within,
    And so prepare to be the home
    Where such a mighty Guest may come.


Straightening up the house is something we do when we’re expecting guests -- any guests… even regular visitors and family members! That may include hiding some things in the closet, under a bed, or behind the sofa. We want give the best possible appearance, tidied up as well as -we can make the visitor feel welcome – even ‘at home.”

Other carols say, “Let every heart prepare him room,” and “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room…” But THIS line calls Jesus a ‘mighty Guest.’ I guess that means the same thing as ‘important’ or ‘extra special.’ The mighty Son of the mighty God is looking for somewhere to take up residence.

Unlike our usual visitors – however glamorous or significant – we don’t need to start hiding things! That all-knowing-ness of Christ sees right through any pretenses we may try to create.

So I suppose this is a season of peace, joy, love, hope… and transparency!

Get your house in order! You may be about to have a Zacchaeus kind of day!

Winchester New Tune at the Organ

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n."

"How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n."
Carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)
Tune: ST. LOUIS

This is one of few “standard” Christmas carols written by an American. There are lots of contemporary ones, of course, but of those we’ve sung in church for years, this one is sort of unique – not being from the British, French or German traditions!

I absolutely love this hymnline because it describes so very well how Christ continues to enter the lives of humankind, just like he did in Bethlehem’s barn.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n.
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.


In this text, the word “so” means “in the same way.” In other words, God gives out his blessings in the same way he sent Jesus into the world: silently.

When redemption is poured into our lives, it is indeed a silent process. WE realize the warming, but the person sitting right beside us is totally unaware that it has occurred. In the same way that Christ was quietly ushered into the world (pre-angelic hosts at least!), that same Christ by his Spirit is escorted into waiting, open hearts. No fanfare. No earthquake. In great tranquility.

In governmental parlance, we often talk of the “peaceful transfer of power.” In church-speak, that is what actually happens: the power of God is peacefully transferred into our lives. How silently the wondrous gift is given.

Be silent for a few seconds before you read on.

It was in that kind of silence that Christ first entered your life. I hope that is as precious to you as it is to me. On the other hand, unless we tell them, the person right next to us won’t know it happened. A silent act can be communicated by a verbal witness.

Hear Child-Singer Connie Talbot Sing This Carol
Seems appropriate to hear a child sing this one!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing."

"O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing."
Carol: “It Came upon the Midnight Clear” – Edmund H. Sears (1810-1876)
Tune: CAROL

This one is for all of you who are just worn out from Christmas shopping, who need a rest period… a time out… to regroup and get back into the spirit of Christmas.

Have you even noticed when you’re at Big Lots picking up those gifts for the most-special people on your list, the expressions on the faces of the shoppers are not like they always appear in old movies and Old Navy commercials? Shopping centers are nothing like those happy sappy songs we’ve sung in our Christmas programs over the years; it’s hard to find shoppers rushing home with their treasures singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

That’s too bad, but it’s a part of our culture that we’re not going to be able to change, so we just accept it and join the flow of jam-packed hallways in the local malls. I also find that shopping online wears me out, too!

Take a load off. Find a bench. Put away your shopping list. Listen to the holiday music being piped in or performed live by the local elementary school choir. Take a deep breath. Settle. Maintain. Be quiet. Rest amid the hectic rush and listen to the whisper of God’s message of peace on earth with goodwill to all. Imagine angel voices singing gloria in excelsis Deo.

Allow the slowing down moments of the season to be cathartic for your weary soul. Listen for the brush of angels’ wings, see the glory of God on each face… because surely the presence of the Lord is with us in this place. Emmanuel.

Today’s promise to yourself: I will rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

(It’s hard to find this stanza on an online recording!)

"What sweeter music can we bring than a carol for the sing the birth of this, our heavenly King?"

"What sweeter music can we bring than a carol for the sing the birth of this, our heavenly King?"

Carol: "What Sweeter Music" - Robert Herrick
Various Tunes

We're getting ready for the third Sunday of Advent tomorrow, so what better use can we make of our time than to get primed and ready to sing?!

I just love this hymnline... or caroline! Is there any sweeter music in all the year than the carols of this season? Is there a more appropriate way to herald the birth of the King of heaven and earth? I doubt it. Many, many traditions have changed over the past several hundred years, but music -- singing in particular -- has always been central to the festivities... and this is one tradition I am happy to promote!

Yes, I know you're saying, "Yes, but he's a musician. He's done music all his life." You're right, but I think I would still love Christmas music even if I understood nothing of what I was hearing.

I've told everyone that when I retired from the full-time music ministry, I had done 41 Christmases -- and that was enough. It was sort of a joke, but there is some truth to the fact that people who conduct music put a whole lot of energy and creativity into the months between September and January. But all 41 years (and two since) I have fallen into my chair exhausted... but supremely fulfilled because I've tried my very best to bring the sweetest possible music to the ears of the Baby Jesus... and hopefully to the ears and lives of people in my congregations.

Seriously, folks: "What sweeter music CAN we bring than a carol for to sing the birth of this, our heavenly King?" That's not a hypothetical question, by the way!

Happy third Sunday of Advent to you!
 St. Olaf Choir Sings John Rutter's Setting of This Text
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Ttuj3WhUowA

Friday, December 13, 2013

"What sweeter music can we bring than a carol for to sing the birth of this, our heavenly King?"



"What sweeter music can we bring than a carol for to sing the birth of this, our heavenly King?"
 
Carol: "What Sweeter Music" - Robert Herrick
Various Tunes

I just love this hymnline... or caroline! Is there any sweeter music in all the year than the carols of this season? Is there a more appropriate way to herald the birth of the King of heaven and earth? I doubt it. Many, many traditions have changed over the past several hundred years, but music -- singing in particular -- has always been central to the festivities... and this is one tradition I am happy to promote!

Yes, I know you're saying, "Yes, but he's a musician. He's done music all his life." You're right, but I think I would still love Christmas music even if I understood nothing of what I was hearing.

I've told everyone that when I retired from the full-time music ministry, I had done 41 Christmases -- and that was enough. It was sort of a joke, but there is some truth to the fact that people who conduct music put a whole lot of energy and creativity into the months between September and January. But all 41 years (and a few since) I have fallen into my chair exhausted... but supremely fulfilled because I've tried my very best to bring the sweetest possible music to the ears of the Baby Jesus... and hopefully to the ears and lives of people in my congregations.

Seriously, folks: "What sweeter music CAN we bring than a carol for to sing the birth of this, our heavenly King?" That's not a hypothetical question, by the way!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Let loving hearts enthrone him."

"Let loving hearts enthrone him."
Carol: “What Child Is This?” – William C. Dix (1827-1898)
Tune: GREENSLEEVES

A carol that begins with a question, winds its way through the manger scene, speaks some theology, calls forth the magi (and us) to bring him gifts honoring his arrival, and in most editions, ends with this line: Let loving hearts enthrone him.”

We all have to ask ourselves during these weeks leading up to Christmas who we think this is? We find ourselves with the very adult words of Jesus ringing in our ears: “Who do people say that I am?” That leaves us wide open for answers like the One who ushers in the most profitable merchandising season every year, the do-gooder of Galilee, the man who healed people and preached a lot. Ultimately, we are faced with the second half of that inquiry: “Who do YOU say that I am?” Hopefully it doesn’t take us long to agree with Peter’s assessment that this baby is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

He was that from the beginning, you know – not just after he began his adult ministry. You might say he was that from the VERY beginning, but for sure I think we would all agree that from his first earth-breath, he was the Son of Jehovah.

With it’s repeated “This, this is Christ the King,” in many ways, this carol could serve as our ‘confession of faith’ during the Advent season.

May those of us who love our Christ put him in his rightful place… on the throne of our lives. From there may he rule not only in December, but all year long.

Josh Groben Sings This Stanza First!

This Carol on Guitars


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"He has opened heaven's door, and we are blessed forevermore."

"He has opened heaven's door, and we are blessed forevermore."
Carol: “Good Christians All Rejoice” – 14th Century Medieval Latin
            Translated by John Mason Neale
Tune: IN DULCI JUBILO

Ever notice how many carols are in 6/8 time? We use “rollicking” and “lilting” to describe the way their tunes dance along. They don’t get much more carefree than this tune! At the same time, its words speak some pretty decent theology!

Most of us may have loved this one as children because it was our one chance to sing “ass” in church and snicker behind our hands! Newer hymnals have removed that euphemism and left us with an unlaughable “beast” in its place.

Today’s hymnline draws a picture for us of what God does as he sets our redemption into motion: he swings wide the substantial doors that once upon a time may have separated humankind from the divine… and sets us on the road from Bethlehem to Calvary to Joseph’s Burial Garden.
 
Maybe it’s because of the music that accompanies this text, but something Medieval comes to mind… like from the period in which it was written. Heavy, heavy castle doors come into my view – maybe even a drawbridge. And I can almost hear the rumbling as the gates slowly open to reveal all that awaits… those blessings that are ours forevermore… because Christ is born today.

It’s a picture worth conjuring up because anything that can help me ‘see’ what God has done for me in Christ Jesus sticks with me much longer… especially when that sight is accompanied by music!

Sung by an Asian choir

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)