Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories

December 26

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN
Stanzas by John W. Work, 1871–1925
You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9)
For many people, another Christmas season is merely a rerun of the trivial and the sentimental. But for the devoted Christian, Christmas is much more than a once a year celebration. It is a fresh awareness that a Deliverer was sent from the ivory palaces of heaven to become personally involved in the redemption and affairs of the human race. The impact of this realization becomes a strong motivation to share the good news with needy and desperate people who need to know that there is an Emmanuel available who can meet their every need. Men everywhere must hear these glad tidings if they are to benefit from them. With absolute clarity they must hear the message, “Here is your God!”
Negro spirituals had their roots in the late 18th and early 19th century camp meetings throughout the South as well as in the active evangelical ministry carried on among the black people during this time. However, few of their traditional songs were collected or published prior to about 1840. The stanzas for “Go Tell It on the Mountain” were written by John W. Work, Jr. He and his brother, Frederick J. Work, were early leaders in arranging and promoting the cause of Negro spirituals. Today’s song was first published in Folk Songs of the American Negro in 1907. These traditional spirituals have since become an important part of the American folk and sacred music heritage and are greatly appreciated and enjoyed by all of God’s people.
While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night, behold, throughout the heavens there shone a holy light.
The shepherds feared and trembled when lo! above the earth rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior’s birth.
Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born, and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.
Refrain: Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and ev’rywhere—go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!

    For Today: Isaiah 42:11, 12; Luke 14:23; Romans 12:11; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 2:10

Reflect on this: How have I grown spiritually throughout this Christmas season? What new insights have I gained regarding this message? How can I share my faith in the living Christ more effectively in the days ahead? Use this musical reminder to help—

Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories

December 25

THOU DIDST LEAVE THY THRONE
Emily E. S. Elliott, 1836–1897
I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
This spiritually enriching text differs from the usual Christmas songs since it focuses not only on Jesus’ birth but also on His life on earth, His suffering and death, and the ultimate triumph of His second advent.
This hymn was written by Emily Elliott to teach children the truths of the advent and nativity seasons. Emily’s life was filled with benevolent activities in rescue missions and in the work of the Sunday school movement of that time. Although she wrote this text for the children of her father’s church, St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Brighton, England, the easily understood wording, the poetic imagery, and the spiritual truths found in these excellent lines soon made the hymn a widespread favorite everywhere.
The clear message of each verse is accentuated by the use of contrasting sentences, each beginning with the word “but.” Then in the fifth stanza, the contrast is reversed with the rejoicing at Christ’s return and the prospects of being at His side throughout eternity. The refrain after each verse effectively personalizes the truth presented. This fine hymn has proved to be an inspiration not only to children but to adults as well, during the Christmas season and also throughout the entire year.
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown when Thou camest to earth for me; but in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity.
Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang, proclaiming Thy royal degree; but of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, and in great humility.
The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest in the shade of the forest tree; but Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God, in the deserts of Galilee.
Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word that should set Thy people free; but with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn they bore Thee to Calvary.
When the heav’ns shall ring and the angels sing at Thy coming to victory, let Thy voice call me home, saying, “Yet there is room—there is room at My side for thee,” My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, when thou comest and callest for me!
Refrain (vv. 1–4): O come to my heart, Lord Jesus—there is room in my heart for Thee!

    For Today: Matthew 1:18–25; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5–11

The Christmas story must become very personal in our individual lives. Carry this musical response with you—

Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories

December 24

SILENT NIGHT! HOLY NIGHT!
Joseph Mohr, 1792–1848
English translation by John F. Young, 1820–1885
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
When this beloved hymn was written by two humble church leaders for their own mountain village parishioners, little did they realize how universal its influence would eventually be.
Joseph Mohr, assistant priest in the Church of St. Nicholas in the region of Tyrol, high in the beautiful Alps, and Franz Gruber, the village schoolmaster and church organist, had often talked about the fact that the perfect Christmas hymn had never been written. So Father Mohr had this goal in mind when he received word that the church organ would not function. He decided that he must write his own Christmas hymn immediately in order to have music for the special Christmas Eve mass. He did not want to disappoint his faithful flock. Upon completing the text, he took his words to Franz Gruber, who exclaimed when he saw them, “Friend Mohr, you have found it—the right song—God be praised!”
Soon Gruber completed his task of composing an appropriate tune for the new text. His simple but beautiful music blended perfectly with the spirit of Father Mohr’s words. The carol was completed in time for the Christmas Eve mass, and Father Mohr and Franz Gruber sang their new hymn to the accompaniment of Gruber’s guitar. The hymn made a deep impact upon the parishioners even as it has on succeeding generations.
When the organ repairman came to the little village church, he was impressed by a copy of the Christmas carol and decided to spread it all around the region of Tyrol. Today it is sung in all major languages of the world and is a favorite wherever songs of the Christmas message are enjoyed.
Silent night! holy night! all is calm, all is bright round yon virgin mother and Child, holy Infant, so tender and mild—sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night holy night! shepherds quake at the sight; glories stream from heaven afar; heav’nly hosts sing alleluia—Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born!
Silent night! holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace—Jesus, Lord at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

    For Today: Matthew 2:9, 10; Luke 1:77–79; Luke 2:7–20

Allow the peaceful strains of this carol to help you worship in awe with the shepherds and sing alleluia with the angels for God’s “redeeming grace”—

Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories

December 23

I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY
Henry W. Longfellow, 1807–1882
And He will be their peace. (Micah 5:5)
The cruel miseries caused by the Civil War greatly distressed the beloved American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. With heaviness of spirit he put his thoughts into words to create this fine carol. Since he was the most influential American poet of his day, Longfellow brought fresh courage and renewed faith to many of his countrymen who read this poem. Although he was a member of the Unitarian church, he maintained a strong belief in God’s goodness and personal concern for His people.
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was written in 1864 for the Sunday school of the Unitarian Church of the Disciples in Boston, Massachusetts. It originally had seven stanzas and was titled “Christmas Bells.” References to the Civil War are prevalent in the omitted verses. The plain, direct wording of the present five stanzas gives this clear message: God is still in command and in His own time will cause the right to triumph and will bring peace and good will once more. The beautiful chiming bells of Christmas reassure us of this important truth.
The personal peace of Longfellow’s life was shaken again 18 years after he wrote this poem. His second wife, to whom he was very devoted, was tragically burned in a fire. Her death was a devastating shock to him. In his remaining years he continued to write, however, and some of his greatest works came during this period of his life. After his death, his bust was placed in the Poets’ Corner of London’s Westminster Abbey as one of the immortal American writers.
I heard the bells on Christmas day their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom had rolled along th’ unbroken song of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Yet pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day—a voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good will to men!

    For Today: Luke 2:13, 14; John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 2:14

“Peace on earth among men of good will!” This is the blessed promise of Christmas. It is the antidote for any fear or hysteria that may enter our lives. Let the glorious sounds of Christmas remind you of this truth—

Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories

December 22

GOOD CHRISTIAN MEN, REJOICE
Latin carol, 14th century
Translation by John M. Neale, 1818–1866
Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones. (Isaiah 49:13)
As this sprightly carol reminds us, Christmas should be the most joyous season of the year for all true Christians. Our lives should be filled with gratitude to God for the immeasurable love shown to us in the gift of His Son. Out of joyous hearts we should be exuberant in “heart and soul and voice!” This ancient hymn uses frequent repetition to impress upon us that the birth of Christ won for us “endless bliss” by opening the way to heaven and conquering our fear of death through His assurance of eternal life.
The festive spirit of Christmas, however, should not fade away as the holiday passes. The joy and peace that Christ brings to our lives should enable us to be continually rejoicing Christians, regardless of the circumstances. The blessings that came to us on Christmas morn have illuminated our lives forever!
“Good Christian Men, Rejoice” is an unusual combination of 14th century Latin phrases and vernacular German expressions. The original Latin text was titled “In Dulci Jubilo,” meaning “in sweet shouting.” Over the years German people added their own wording, making this a “macaronic carol”—one that combines two or more languages. The carol was later given a free rendering English translation by John M. Neale, the noted 19th century scholar and translator of ancient hymns. It first appeared in Neale’s Carols for Christmastide in 1853.
Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice; give ye heed to what we say: News! news! Jesus Christ is born today! Ox and ass before Him bow, and He is in the manger now: Christ is born today! Christ is born today!
Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice; now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! joy! Jesus Christ was born for this! He has opened heaven’s door, and man is blessed evermore: Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!
Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice; now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! peace! Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain His everlasting hall: Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

    For Today: Isaiah 40:1–11; Luke 1:77–79; Luke 2:10–20; Ephesians 1:3–12

Determine by God’s help to maintain the joy of Christmas in your life. Seek to minister an encouraging word to some lonely person. Share this musical message—

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