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Christmas Favorites

These are a few of my favorite Christmas hymns. They are lesser known than many others, which may be part of their appeal to me. I am pretty sure I have never sung them in a worship service. Links open videos in popup windows.

image In the Bleak Midwinter

Text: Christina G. Rossetti, 1830-1894

Music: Gustav Holst, 1874-1934

Tune: Cranham

Meter: Irregular

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;

heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed

the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,

cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;

but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,

worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

yet what I can give him: give my heart.

image Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Text: Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-405)

Music: Plainsong, 13th century

Tune: Divinum Mysterium


Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,

He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,

Of the things that are, that have been,

And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framèd; He commanded; it was done:

Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;

All that grows beneath the shining

Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,

That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,

May not henceforth die and perish

In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace,

By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;

And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,

First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;

Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;

Now He shines, the long expected,

Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;

Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!

Let no tongue on earth be silent,

Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,

On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;

Who at last in vengeance coming

Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;

Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:

Let their guileless songs re-echo,

And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,

Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:

Honor, glory, and dominion,

And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

image I Wonder as I Wander

Text: Appalachian carol

Music: John Jacob Niles

Tune: I Wonder as I Wander

Meter: Irregular

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,

How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.

For poor orn’ry people like you and like I;

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,

With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.

But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,

And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,

A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,

Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,

He surely could have it, for he was the King.

image Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming

Text: German carol, 16th century

Music: Geistliche Kirkengesäng, Cologne, 1599; harmonized by Michael Prætorius

Tune: Es Ist Ein’ Ros’


Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,

Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.

It came, a flow’ret bright, amid the cold of winter,

When half-spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;

With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.

To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,

When half-spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story, proclaimed by angels bright,

How Christ, the Lord of glory, was born on earth this night.

To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found him,

As angel heralds said.

This flow’r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,

Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness ev’rywhere.

True man, yet very God; from sin and death he saves us

And lightens ev’ry load.

O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe;

O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know,

Bring us at length, we pray, to the bright courts of heaven

And to the endless day.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

image on the cor anglais (English horn) and organ,

image the guitar,

image and a rather unusual chorale arrangement

Tune: Picardy


Let all mortal flesh keep silence,

And with fear and trembling stand;

Ponder nothing earthly minded,

For with blessing in His hand,

Christ our God to earth descendeth,

Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,

As of old on earth He stood,

Lord of lords, in human vesture,

In the body and the blood;

He will give to all the faithful

His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven

Spreads its vanguard on the way,

As the Light of light descendeth

From the realms of endless day,

That the powers of hell may vanish

As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,

Cherubim with sleepless eye,

Veil their faces to the presence,

As with ceaseless voice they cry:

Alleluia, Alleluia

Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Posted 2008·12·25 by David Kjos
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#1 || 08·12·25··09:32 || rebecca

Last year my church choir sang In the Bleak Mid-winter, Of the Father's Love Begotten and Let All Mortal Flesh.

This year we sang Lo How a Rose accompanied by harpsichord.

#2 || 08·12·25··09:34 || rebecca

Oh, and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

#3 || 08·12·25··14:33 || David

Well, of all people, you surprise me least by saying that.

Merry Christmas, and stop reading blogs on Christmas Day.

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