Tag Archives: carols

Day 10: Silver Bells and Christmas

Living life in downtown Minneapolis has brought new meaning to the lyrics of the song Silver Bells, a song inspired by a tiny bell on the work desk of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.

City sidewalks
Busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air
There’s a feeling of Christmas
Children laughing
People passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you hear

Silver bells – silver bells
It’s Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas Day

The verse still brings a smile to my face.

Each day, during my thirty minute break, I go for a walk…brisk this time of year, but I still enjoy it none-the-less. Just before Thanksgiving, decorative ornaments, both big and small appeared in the planters just outside the Foshay tower.

Snowflakes danced and aspen and birch filled planters lined Nicollet Mall before the start of the Holidazzle Parade on Thanksgiving weekend. For those of you that haven’t seen this extravaganza, the parade takes place this coming Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30 PM along Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis through the 18th (next Sunday).

I was greeted by a nice surprise the on November 19th as I made my way through the skyway to the theater located at Block e. The trees were up in the IDS Crystal Court and City Center and Gavidea Commons was decked to the max. B-E-A-U-Ti-ful!


Macy’s even had their window displays up the Monday before Thanksgiving.

The wreath outside the office at work and the massive amount of decorations in the skyway welcomed me when I returned to the city from Thanksgiving. After spending a nice, relaxing (for the most part) with family, trimming the tree and decorating the house outside there, it was quite the surprise.

I will also point out that passersby have seemed more “friendly” the last couple of weeks. I’ve seen more smiles and heard children’s laughter in the skyways and on the streets in the last three weeks than I have since I moved here in March.

And the bells on every street corner? The credit goes to the Salvation Army.

Christmas is a season full of given. If I could give to each one I pass, I totally would. Have you given anything this year?

Day 9: Born is the King of Israel!

I’m seriously contemplating doing a whole 365 days of Christmas as there is so much to write in regards to this season! And there is so much that I love it about…too bad every day couldn’t be Christmas. Oh wait…it already is! At least, it is so in the heart of every believer.

Many of the songs that are sung this time of year comprise some of the finest music known to man. I wonder why that is…? *knowing smile*

I had a hard time choosing today’s insightful entry pick, but settled on The First Noel, another of my favorite Christmas hymns.

No Christmas season would be complete without hearing the strands of The First Noel. I’ve completely fallen in love with TobyMac and Owl City’s version of the song…no wonder it’s climbing the charts. Find it here.

Very little is known about this one song most of us cherish. It is believed to have been written in France during the 15th century. Noel is a French word derived from the Latin term for birthday. The repetition of Noel during the refrain of the song is our equivalent of singing Happy Birthday to someone. The First Noel portrays a vivid narrative story of the birth of Jesus and all stanzas are needed to complete the story. The sixth verse invites us all to join together in praise to God for the marvels of His creation and for the salvation He provided through His Son, Jesus.

It is interesting to observe that the “King of Israel” was first announced to “certain poor shepherds” only, but in the final stanza the phrases “let us all” and “mankind hath brought” remind us that Christ came to redeem the whole world.

The first noel the angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay-in fields where they lay keeping their sheep, on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

They looked up and saw a star shining in the east, beyond them far; and to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night.

And by the light of that same star, three wise men came from country far; to seek for a king was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.

This star drew nigh to the northwest, o’er Bethlehem it took its rest; and there it did both stop and stay, right over the place where Jesus lay.

Then entered in those wise men three, full rev’rently upon their knee, and offered there, in His presence, their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heav’nly Lord, that hath made heav’n and earth of naught, and with His blood mankind hath bought.

Chorus: Noel, noel! Noel, noel! Born is the King of Israel!

Amazing how one song can hold so much truth about the Savior’s birth! Celebrate that today!

Day 8: No Crib for a Bed

Did you know that the first two verses to Away in a Manger were written anonymously? Some have accredited them to Martin Luther, but we can’t be sure.

Away in a manger
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus
Lay down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky
Look down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

This was one of my favorite Christmas carols when I was a child. The delightful lullaby still soothes my soul in unexpected ways…and differently each year, I might add.

Over the last five years, I’ve learned that the key to keeping joy in Christmas is keeping it low-key, not high-strung; slow, not fast. All to often, in our holiday rush to get Christmas right, we spend too much, eat more than our stomachs can hold and drink more than we should. Before we know it, stress sets in, we’re loosening our belts another notch or two and scrambling to find enough cash to cover the bills come January. Perhaps that’s why we need New Year’s Resolutions (more to come on that later).

The heart of Christmas is simplicity. The heart of Christmas is a manger. This is something we need to remember as December 25 gets closer.

Think of the first Christmas. There was no room for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. The hotels (in that day) were booked solid, no
one had room to spare. There was no crib for a bed. The cattle were lowing, which is an alternate term for mooing and making a racket as they are known to do (I know this first hand!). No wonder the baby awakes. I wonder how many mothers can imagine giving birth in a barn. Or even using a cattle manger (or trough) for a crib.
As I mentioned before, no one knows who wrote the first two verses of this song. Perhaps it was written by a stressed out parent with several children under the age of three in an effort to lull them to sleep (lullaby style).
And even though the lyric states, no crying He makes, I’m sure that Jesus, being fully human and fully God, wailed and cried with the best of them. Mary and Joseph probably suffered sleep deprivation, but loved Jesus none-the-less.
Even though I’m not yet a parent, my own have often reminded me that having a baby is worth the sacrifice. Babies are worth the investment. Have you ever noticed how small children tend to steal our hearts? No wonder God came in the form of a child. He stole our hearts from the beginning.
The last verse remains a prayer in my own life:
Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven
To live with Thee there
A miracle happens when that little Baby Boy cracks through the hardest of hearts and warms the new believer to the core of their soul. My prayer for you today is that God will continue to fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.

Day 7: Carol of the Bells

The melody for Carol of the Bells was composed by the Ukranian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1904. The words were written later by Peter J. Wilhousky and has been covered by many artists in different genres each year: classical, jazz, rock and pop. I’ve even heard it done in accapela. And no matter which genre picks it up this year, I’m sure it will be just as beautifully arranged.

The song was originally based on a traditional folk chant associated with the coming new year which, in Ukraine, was originally celebrated with the coming of spring in April.

When Christianity spread to the Ukraine, the new year moved to January, which this chant then became used for the Feast of Epiphany.

The lyrics we’ve come to associate with this tune didn’t originate with the melody written by Leontovych. The original text tells a tale of a swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful and bountiful year that the family would have.

The song first premiered in December 1916 and was performed by a student choral group at Kiev University. Carol of the Bells was first introduced to Western audiences by the Ukranian National Chorus during their concert tour of Europe and the Americas, where it first premiered in the US on October 5, 1921 at Carnegie Hall.

Wilhousky wrote the copyrighted English text in the 1930s and it has been performed and sung worldwide during the Christmas season since.

My favorite version of this song can be found on BarlowGirl‘s Christmas album, which was released in 2008.

Ding. Dong. Ding. Dong.

Day 6: Chesnuts Roasting

I can hear Nat King Cole crooning…

Chesnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Will help to make the season bring
And tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said, many times
Many ways, Merry Christmas to you!

Humming the tune just yet? I am!

I couldn’t help but wonder when and where this song came about, so I’ve done a little research. The song is a classic, written in 1944 by musician, composer and vocalist Mel Torme and Bob Wells. According to Tomre, the song was written during a blistering hot summer and in an effort for them to stay cool, the most performed Christmas song was born.

Nat King Cole and his group first recorded that song in 1946. It was re-recorded later that year due to objections from their label with a small ensemble of strings. This second version became a hit on both the pop and R&B charts. The song was recorded again in 1953 and again in 1961 with a full orchestra. The second recording from 1946 was inducted into the Germany Hall of Fame in 1974.

Since the song’s creation, a number of artists have performed this beloved hit – from Aretha Franklin to Gavin DeGraw, Trace Adkins to Justin Bieber, The Jackson 5 to Christina Aguilera, and more.

My favorite, by far, would be Ginny Owens’ version, sung live. However, I couldn’t find it online, so I’ve settled for my next favorite by Michael Buble. Hear it here.


Day 4: Carol Favorites

What are your Christmas carol favorites? I have many…probably due to the love I have for this time of year. I’ll be sharing a few of my favorite Christmas tunes this week.


Angels We Have Hear on High

The French carol “Les anges dans nos campagnes,” now known as “Angels We Have Heard on High,” is completely anonymous. It has always been printed with no known lyricist or composer. The beautiful carol tells the story of Christ’s birth, when the angel choir told the good news to nearby shepherds. The chorus, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” reflects the chorus of the angel choir that long-ago Christmas night.

Many years ago shepherds in the hills of southern France had a Christmas Eve custom of calling to one another, singing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” each from his own hillside. The traditional tune that the shepherds used may have been from a late Medieval Latin chorale. It became the magnificent chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

The carol seems to be of eighteenth-century origin, since it was known in England by 1816. At that time James Montgomery wrote his carol “Angels From the Realms of Glory”, originally basing it on the tune of “Les anges dans nos campagnes.” “Angels From the Realms of Glory” was sung to the French tune until Henry Tomas Smart wrote a new tune for it in 1967.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” was first published in France in 1855. The English translation came seven years later, in Henri Frederick’s Crown of Jesus Music. This 1862 translation differed from the form we use now. The version we use today was first printed in a 1916 American carol collection entitled Carols Old and Carols New.

Thinking back to what it may have been like 2000 years ago when those angels first appeared…Sheep scattered around, the shepherds settled in for another quiet night, probably swapping stories as they watched the flocks. Then, in a divine moment, God burst into the night. Angels appeared, singing songs and speaking of the Savior’s birth. And suddenly, the shepherds’ ordinary lives were transformed-becoming part of a story that’s lived for thousands of years.

Angels We Have Heard on High” reminds me of this amazing night. In the beautiful strains of its chorus, this carol helps me experience a taste of what that angel chorus might have sounded like as they proclaimed the “good news.”

Christ’s birth certainly was good news to those simple shepherds. The Savior changed their lives forever. And God still loves to speak to ordinary people and transform their lives into something extraordinary through his grace.

Remember that God still wants to announce the “good news” today, using people like you and me. Helping a family in need, sharing the gospel story with a prisoner, encouraging a friend who’s going through tough times-in these and countless other ways we can announce Jesus’ birth to the “shepherds” of our day.

Through our words and actions, we can show that Jesus still lives in the hearts of man. So in this Christmas season, and all through the coming year, let’s continue the angel song. Let’s tell the world all about Jesus, and how he’s changed our lives forever.