Friday, December 25, 2009

O Holy Night!

One of my very favorite carols of all. This song is so majestic, it feels like angels are all around again like that night long ago when the shepherds were tending their flocks.

"The words and lyrics of the old carol 'O Holy Night' were written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. Cappeau was a wine seller by trade but was asked by the parish priest to write a poem for Christmas. He obliged and wrote the beautiful words of the hymn. He then realised that it should have music to accompany the words and he approached his friend Adolphe Charles Adams(1803-1856). He agreed and the music for the poem was therefore composed by Adolphe Charles Adams. Adolphe had attended the Paris conservatoire and forged a brilliant career as a composer. It was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893)."*

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O night, O holy night, O night divine!
Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The 12 Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas

by Dennis Bratcher

The Twelve Days of Christmas is probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th but the following day is considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th).

The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures (see Christmas). In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Traditionally there were three Magi, probably from the fact of three gifts, even though the biblical narrative never says how many Magi came. In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings (Span: la Fiesta de Reyes, el Dia de los Tres Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.

By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.

The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day. Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King's Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some cultures, the King's Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany.

The popular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith. They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.

However, many have questioned the historical accuracy of this origin of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. It seems that some have made an issue out of trying to debunk this as an "urban myth," some in the name of historical accuracy and some out of personal agendas. There is little "hard" evidence available either way. Some church historians affirm this account as basically accurate, while others point out apparent historical discrepancies. However, the "evidence" on both sides is mostly in logical deduction and probabilities. One internet site devoted to debunking hoaxes and legends says that, "there is no substantive evidence to demonstrate that the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was created or used as a secret means of preserving tenets of the Catholic faith, or that this claim is anything but a fanciful modern day speculation. . .." What is omitted is that there is no "substantive evidence" that will disprove it either.

It is certainly possible that this view of the song is legendary or anecdotal. Without corroboration and in the absence of "substantive evidence," we probably should not take rigid positions on either side and turn the song into a crusade for personal opinions. That would do more to violate the spirit of Christmas than the song is worth. So, for the sake of historical accuracy, we need to acknowledge this uncertainty.

However, on another level, this uncertainty should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point. Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God's grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was a secular "nonsense song," they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world. After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Two Turtle Doves

The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God's self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Three French Hens

The Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Four Calling Birds

The Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News of God's reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Five Gold Rings

The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity's sinful failure and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Six Geese A-laying

The six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Seven Swans A-swimming

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eight Maids A-milking

The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Nine Ladies Dancing

The nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Ten Lords A-leaping

The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God's name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eleven Pipers Piping

The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Twelve Drummers Drumming

The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Welcome Christmas!

What a great song that the Who's (not to be confused with The Who) sing in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I've always loved this song, ever since I was a little kid. Who can forget the Grinch's reaction when he hears the Who's singing Welcome Christmas?

 Here's a YouTube video:

Welcome Christmas - Dr. Seuss
Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Come this way!

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day.

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas
Bring your cheer
Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome all Who's
Far and near

Welcome Christmas, fah who rah-moose
Welcome Christmas, dah who dah-moose
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we
Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome Christmas
Bring your light

Welcome Christmas
Fah who rah-moose!
Welcome Christmas
Dah who dah-moose!
Welcome Christmas
While we stand
Heart to heart
And hand in hand

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome welcome
Christmas Day

Good King Wenceslas

Ok, what's up with this song? Who's Good King Wenceslas, and what's the Feast of Stephen? Why do we sing this at Christmas time??

John Mason Neale wrote this carol and it was published in 1853. King Wenceslas was Václav, Duke of Bohemia from 921-935 AD. He was apparently a good Christian and is the Saint of the Czech Republic. The carol is based on a legend surrounding Wenceslas that his footsteps generated heat and helped his page to keep going on the journey to help the peasant.

The Feast of Stephen (St. Stephen's Day) is celebrated in honor of Saint Stephen on December 26. It's close proximity to Christmas day has made it a common song at Christmastime.

Good King Wenceslas - Words by John Mason Neale

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."

Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."

"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Christmas Songs

This week I'll be posting the lyrics and history behind various Christmas songs. I love Christmas music! It is so majestic and joyful! I'll listen to Christmas music periodically throughout the year, just cause it's so awesome.

If you have a song you'd like ot know more about, let me know and I'll see what I can find.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Check out this website that a friend of mine runs. He has blogs and podcasts discussing movies from a Christian perspective. Good stuff. It's called More Than One Lesson.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's called Christmas!

The song says it all. Merry Christmas!

Read this one too:

Christmas with a Capital "C" - Go Fish
Well I went to the coffee shop to get myself a Mocha,
The lady at the counter said "Happy holidays";
I said, "Thanks lady, I am pretty happy,
But there’s only one holiday that makes me feel that way."

It’s called Christmas, what more can I say?
It’s about the birth of Christ
and you can’t take that away.
You can call it something else,
but that’s not what it will be.
It’s called Christmas with a capital "C."

God's got a law and we pretty much destroyed it.
We’re gonna get judged, there’s no way to avoid it.
But Jesus came down to take the punishment for me.
He did it for you too, so maybe you can see . . .

Why It’s called Christmas, what more can I say?
It’s about the birth of Christ
and you can’t take that away.
You can call it something else,
but that’s not what it will be.
It’s called Christmas with a capital "C."

It’s called Christmas!
(oh, yes we want to say happy holidays because we don’t want to leave anybody out, really, how come there’s a bunch of holidays in February but no one says happy holidays then, they say what it is, “happy valentines day- OOH do you believe in love?”)

It’s called Christmas!

(but no body wants to say christmas,everything but Christmas, why I know why, you do too, it’s because it’s got Christ in it and after thousands of years he’s still intimidating people, you see when a religious figure says “I am the way” people don’t wanna hear it.)

It’s called Christmas!

( I say you gotta say merry Christmas cuz it is! and if you don’t believe in it fine, but i got a flash for you, Christianity happens to be the religious heritage of my country whether you like it or not.)

It’s called Christmas!

(so if you’re not Christian or you don’t like it, and you don’t want Christmas to be celebrated, well then God Bless You, but if you’re think you’re gonna stop me from sayin it because it offends you, i gotta flash for you, Put a helmet on, cuz it’s my country too.)

It’s called Christmas, what more can I say?
It’s about the birth of Christ
and you can’t take that away.
You can call it something else,
but that’s not what it will be.
It’s called Christmas with a capital "C”