Phillips Brooks, a famous American preacher, wrote O Little Town of Bethlehem in 1868 for the Sunday School of Philadelphia's Church of the Advent.  The lyrics were inspired by a trip he took to the Holy Land during a sabbatical. He asked the church's organist, Lewis H. Redner to compose the music. After working on the assignment unsuccessfully for a week, Redman went to sleep one night and the melody came to him in a dream.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel  

 

 

 

Words by Phillips Brooks (1868)

Music by Lewis H. Redner

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Sing We Now of Christmas*

(Noël Nouvelet)

Traditional French, 15th Century
English Traditional Carol, 17-18th Century, Translator Unknown

Sing we now of Christmas
Sing we all Noel
Of the Lord and Savior
We the tidings tell
Sing we Noel
For Christ the King is born
Sing we Noel
For Christ the Lord is born

Angels from on high
May shepherds come and see
He's born in Bethleham
A blessed family

Glory to God
For Christ our King is born
Glory to God
For Christ our Lord is born

Sing we now of Christmas
Sing we all Noel
Sing we now of Christmas
Sing we all Noel
Sing we all Noel
Sing we all Noel

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Wonderful Counselor
Lord of Life, Lord of All
He is the prince of peace
Mighty God, Holy One
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

Emmanuel, Emmanuel (sung twice - 2nd time only)
Wonderful Counselor
Lord of Life, Lord of All
He is the prince of peace
Mighty God, Holy One
Emmanuel, Emmanuel (sung twice - 2nd time only)
repeat

This traditional French carol, was actually a New Year's carol. It has many variations, the one listed here being a more recent one with the addition of the 'Emmanuel' stanzas.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Words: Charles Wesley, 1739, English Hymn

Music: Mendelssohn, adapted by William Cummings

Hark the herald angels sing 
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored 
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! 
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"**

Interestingly, Whitfield made two theologically incorrect changes.  “Glory to the newborn King” was originally “Glory to the King of kings.” However, the angels were not praising the newborn Savior, but God. Also, although Whitfield’s famous version proclaims: “Hark! The herald angels sing,” scripture does not indicate that they sang (Luke 2:13-14).  

English version by  Minna Louise Hohman, 1947 

Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring
Tell all the world, Jesus is King
Loudly proclaim with one accord
The happy tale, welcome the Lord

Ring Christmas bells, sound far and near
The birthday of Jesus is here
Herald the news to old and young
Tell it to all in every tongue
Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring
Tell all the world, Jesus is King
Ring Christmas bells, toll loud and long
Your message sweet, peal and prolong

Come all ye people join in the singing
Repeat the story told by the ringing
Ring, ring, ring, ring
Ring, ring, ring, ring

Ring Christmas bells, throughout the earth
Tell the good news of Jesus' birth
Loudly proclaim with one accord
The happy tale, welcome the Lord

Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring
Tell all the world, Jesus is King

Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring
Tell all the world, Jesus is King

Louldy proclaim with one accord 
The happy tale, welcome the Lord
Ring Christmas bells, sound far and near
The birthday of Jesus is here

Herald the news to old and young
Tell it to all in every tongue

Ring, ring, ring, ring
Ring, ring, ring, ring

Lyrics: George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848–1934)

Ding dong! merrily on high
In heav'n the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky
Is riv'n with Angel singing.

Gloria,
Hosanna in excelsis!
Gloria,
Hosanna in excelsis!

E'en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And "Io, io, io!"
By priest and people sungen.

Gloria,
Hosanna in excelsis!
Gloria,
Hosanna in excelsis!

Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers.

Gloria,
Hosanna in excelsis!
Gloria,
Hosanna in excelsis!

This carol is based on a sixteenth century French dance tune by Johan Tabourot (1519-93). It was later revived by English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward who wrote lyrics to accompany the tune. This is yet another example of a macaronic song (as was In Dulci Jubilo listed under the week 1 carols). Macaronic songs are those which mix Latin and another language—in this case English. 

This is an alternate English version of Carol of the Bells, which is based on the Ukrainian folk song Shchedryk.  It was written by Minna Louise Hohman in 1947 with a more Nativity-focused theme. 

 

 

*If you are not familiar with these tunes, click on the link to hear it on YouTube, and sing along!

Arranged and Composed by Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921),  

Adapted to English by Peter J. Wilhousky

 Hark how the bells, 
sweet silver bells, 
all seem to say, 
throw cares away 

Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer, 
to young and old,
meek and the bold, 

Oh how they pound, 
raising the sound, 
o'er hill and dale, 
telling their tale, 

Gaily they ring 
while people sing 
songs of good cheer, 
Christmas is here, 

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas, 
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas, 
On on they send , 
on without end, 
their joyful tone to every home 
Dong Ding dong ding, dong Bong


 

Carol of the Bells was adapted from the Ukrainian carol named Shchedryk, which means ‘bountiful.’  Arranged and composed by composer and teacher Mykola Leontovych , it was first performed in December 1916 by students at Kiev University. The original Ukrainian song is based on an old Slavic legend that every bell in the world rang in honour of Jesus on the night of His birth.

Silent Night 

Words: Father Josef Mohr, ca. 1816  English Translation: John F. Young, ca. 1863
Music: Franz X. Gruber ca. 1820 

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,
Heavely hosts sing alleluia;
Christ the Saviour, is born!
Christ the Saviour, 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.

 

Stille Nacht 

(German version)

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Silent Night was originally written as Stille Nacht by Father Joseph Mohr, in Oberdorf bei Salzburg, Upper Austria. The melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster and organist, Franz Gruber.  This most universally sung of all Christmas songs was first heard in the tiny church of St. Nicholas in Oberdorf. On Christmas Eve, 1818, Father Mohr came to Gruber with the lyrics, and asked him to set it to music for two solo voices with guitar accompaniment. Stille Nacht is one of the songs sung by the Germans from the trenches during the WWI Christmas Truce. The firsthand accounts of the truce are chronicled in the book Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914 by Stanley Weintraub. In 2011 Silent Night was deemed a ‘Human Treasure’ and as therefore declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) by UNESCO.

** The original song as written by Charles Wesley has been edited over the years, and the following section was removed altogether by George Whitfield in 1753:

Come, desire of nations, come, 
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman's conquering seed, 
Bruise in us the serpent's head. Now display thy saving power, 
Ruin'd nature now restore; 
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine. Adam's likeness, Lord, efface, 
Stamp thy image in its place. 
Second Adam from above, 
Reinstate us in thy love. Let us thee, though lost, regain, 
Thee, the life, the inner man: 
O, to all thyself impart, 
Form'd in each believing heart.

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