Regardless of what you think about the designation of December 25th as the birthday of Jesus, isn’t it wonderful to actually hear the words of the gospel being proclaimed over secular airwaves during the holidays?
When planning your songs for the Christmas season no list is complete without these five Christmas hymns:
5 Hymns To Include In Your Christmas Service
1. O Holy Night:
When I hear this magnificent song played in a grocery store or shopping mall, it almost brings tears to my eyes. I stop and take a look at the souls around me and wonder if they are really listening. This hymn, in the form that we enjoy today, was written and composed with the combined efforts of Placide Cappeau, Adolphe Charles Adam, and John Sullivan Dwight; Cappeau wrote the original words in French, Adam composed the musical score, and Dwight translated the carol into English. Most of us crave peace, but how many realize that complete peace apart from Jesus the Messiah is impossible. Interestingly, the French lyricist of this beloved hymn was a socialist –perhaps his hope was that peace would come to earth by way of political restructuring. Ironically, the words of his own poem demand the Prince of Peace as the sole solution to man’s dilemma. HE is the hope of nations. Do you hear it, my friends, “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.” This message is within reach. Please, please…slow down and listen.
2. O Little Town of Bethlehem
This Phillip Brooks penned hymn was originally intended for a children’s choir at his church. The music alone is so moving, but what’s amazing is the melody was actually written the night before the Sunday when the song was to be performed! Church organist Lewis Redner had been struggling to find something to match the Brooks lyrics when he awoke in the night to hear the tune in his head. He quickly wrote down the melody, went back to sleep, and later filled in the harmony on his way to church. In Redner’s own words, “Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas of 1868.” But it sure did! Today it is one of the most beloved Christmas hymns of all time.
3. The First Noel
The word Noel has come to mean “Christmas” but specifically it comes from the Latin meaning “natalis” which is translated “birthday”. It is the day chosen by many to celebrate the birth of Christ. The song presents the announcement of His birth to shepherds, then to the wise men and finally calls us all to worship the God of Heaven who created everything from nothing, yet humbled Himself and became our Savior: “Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord, that hath made heaven and earth of nought, and with his blood mankind has bought. Noel… born is the King of Israel.”
4. What Child is This?
“Good Christian, fear — for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.” Like so many other great hymns, the original poem behind “What Child is this” poured forth from a broken spirit. William Chatterton Dix wrote it following a severe and chronic illness which was further complicated with depression. He cried out to God and he was eventually delivered. Following this experience he wrote “The Manger Throne” circa 1865; from it the words were later extracted then married with a traditional English folk tune, “Greensleeves”. The lyrics beautifully capture the “fully God and fully man” aspect of the gospel making it another great choice for the Christmas season.
5. Joy to the World
Joy to the world the Lord is coming AGAIN! Did you know the father of hymns, Isaac Watts, did not write Joy to the World as a Christmas song, but actually a celebration of the second coming of Christ? It still works as a Christmas hymn because there is no triumphant second coming without a humble advent of our Messiah.
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing.”
I know there are many more, but these are on the top of my list. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.