I think my favorite Christmas hymn is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. The opening lines capture what the setting of the holy day:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
I can’t think of my most disliked Christmas hymn at this moment. I am not very fond of “Silent Night”, it seems to sterilize the story.
I’m sure you’ve been singing and/or hearing many Christmas hymns this time of year. What is your favorite and/or most disliked Christmas hymn?
On my OT days, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is definitely my favorite too. But on my non-OT days, (i.e., my NT days), it would definitely have to be “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Two hymns I will never tire of.
My last favorite is “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” I can’t complain about the content, which is fine. But I’ve never liked the melody. So I guess I don’t have a theological complaint about any Christmas hymn. Christmas songs, though, well, that’s another matter.
I also love Oh Come Emmanuel. We used to sing that in a chorale group in High School and it was pretty special. Silent Night was always fun to sing a capella. And though we know the Christmas night was a time of great blood shed and turmoil, in the filthy manger, the refugee parents and a Messiah that depended on his mother for life — there was something “silent” in the way of Holy, sacred and special. As if all of Creation paused to worship…. and somehow the meaning of Silent Night is more poetic than anything else…
Some of my faves though:
Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, Oh Come Let Us Adore Him, O Holy Night, How Many Kings (Downhere), God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,
Other songs I enjoy this time of year: the French song Les Cloches du Hameau, Grown-up Christmas List, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, Merry Christmas (War is Over), Carol of the Bells, and anything classic from the crooners (Como, Sinatra, Crosby, Williams, Ella, Connick, Buble, et al)
Israel Houghton’s Christmas Medley is also one of the best.
Unlike my many music snob friends who make it a point every year to distance themselves from the “muzak” that is Christmas music, I enjoy it. Granted, by the third week of December, if all one has listened to is Christmas music, the monotony alone could cause spite.
Hey Jeremy! Interesting isn’t it that many of these Christmas hymns were year-round hymns (Oh Come All Ye Faithful, for example).
Go Tell It on the Mountain is more fun to here in it’s original form… as a Negro spiritual!
“…The Incarnation is messy, dirty, and resonates with the crucifixion. We need a new wave of carol writing that can gradually swill out the nonsense and catch the piercing, joy-through-pain refrains of the New Testament.” Jeremy Begbie, professor of theology, Duke Divinity School
Brian, the above is probably what you are feeling with Silent Night… and I get that too.
I realize that ‘Mary Did You Know’ is not a hymn, but I would like to take this (and any) opportunity to express how much that song irritates me.
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” by Isaac Watts is perfect if you think the Second Coming is past tense.
@Jeremy : I’m not a fan of ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’ either. Like you, I’m not sure why.
@James: Begbie’s wording does explain the setting I imagine. I see what you are saying about ‘Silent Night’. I’ve thought that as well.
@Mike: True, for you and the six other people in the world that believe that. 😉
By the way, Brian, I just ran across this blog today. Very nice work here!
I love O Come O Come Immanuel as well, and O Magnum Mysterium, and Angels From the Realms of Glory. I’ve had a problem with “Away in the Manger” the last few years (probably for the same reason you aren’t fond of Silent Night). It’s fine, except for the one line about baby Jesus not crying. It’s just nonsense. All babies cry, and to portray the newborn Jesus as not crying leads to a theology that doesn’t see him as fully man. We sang it in church last week, and I was overjoyed when I noticed that the music pastor had left that verse out. The rest of the song is lovely.
Oh, Brian, I had hoped you weren’t one of those who feel that the number of people who believe a thing is a determining factor as to whether or not it is truth. Given this, I’m glad the cause of Christ reached you only after it had built up a 2,000 year head of steam, as it might have been harder for you to believe in the early days. And besides, wasn’t it you who recently wrote that, “Stigmatization impoverishes the church?”
@Jeremy: Thank you!
@Janelle: Yes, a baby Jesus not crying seems to downplay the incarnation a bit too much for my taste!
@Mike: Yes, but sometimes rejecting absurd propositions is necessary. We may seek to avoid stigmatizing those who don’t deserve it, but don’t abuse the principle. We’ve conversed on your ideas briefly in the past and you know I don’t think they are very probable.
@Brian, I wouldn’t use the principle for my sake, much less abuse it. I only invoked it for your sake.
@Mike: Thank you for your help. I will consider your views alongside various forms of gnosticism, the JWs, and other sects who have discovered major doctrines that everyone else got wrong. 🙂
Favorite: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. It could be sung year around in other traditions, but in the PCA we sing it at Christmas. I believe it is from the 4th or 5th century.
Red Mountain Church has a great version of it.
Yes! That one seems particularly appropriate at this juncture.
@Casey: I don’t know that I’ve heard that song. I’ll need to look it up.
Do it. It is great to have sung during the Eucharist.
Like: joy to the world
hate: Away in a manger, especially lines such as ‘no crying he makes’
Love all the ones y’all love. “We Three Kings of Orient” with the chorus after each verse is painful to sing (like those repetitive ‘Worship chorus’ which I became Episcopalian to escape).
I love O Little Town of Bethlehem. There is another one I like but cannot remember the title. Maybe someone can help me here. Part of the verse goes something like “Mary when you looked at your baby did you know you were looking at the face of God.” I’m sure those are not the exact words, but it is something like that.
I love O Come Emmanuel (especially the versions by Folk Angel, the song from A Social Network Christmas, and August Burns Red) and O Holy Night I really like. One song/hymn I really don’t like is We Three Kings. The tune is fine, but the story is way off!
I was just thinking the other day that O Come Emmanuel was my favorite. For my least favorite, I don’t have anything against O Holy Night as a songs, but I can’t stand how pop stars insist on hamming it up as much as possible!
As for secular Christmas songs, I have to say that I hardly like any of them. I guess Carol of the Bells is pretty good. Weird Al’s “The Night Santa Went Crazy” (an original, not a parody) is fun if you’re into that kind of morbid humor. Hearing the constant stream of sappy overproduced Santa-and-winter songs (with the occasional hymn thrown in) in stores is my least favorite thing about December.
@Peter: It seems many of us dislike the idea of a baby Jesus who seems to lack humanity.
@John: I’m going to guess there was more to your move to the Episcopal church than just one hymns?! 🙂
@Keith: That is ‘Mary, Did You Know?’
@Jason: ‘We Three Kings’ is always ripe for parody as well.
@Joel: I agree. Christmas as a folk holiday lacks the beauty of Christmas as intended.
I dislike many Christmas hymns, but if I have to pick one it will be “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”, because of that hymn’s completely pagan ideas of “ever-circling years” and “the age of gold”.
Favourite: “O Holy Night” (John Sullivan Dwight’s Version, not the the literal of Cappeau’s)
You don’t like Silent Night, that’s considered blaspheme from where I’m from. But I love “Come o Come Emmanuel”, it captures the spirit of the Christmas story very well and it’s beautiful to listen too! As for my least favorite, I don’t have any really, I’m sure that there are several dozen out there, if I listened to them, I would end up hating but as of now, I dislike none.
Comments are closed.