Tag Archives: Christmas carols

traditions: O Holy Night

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the Glory of your people Israel! Luke 2.32 NLT

Each year, I take part in singing Christmas carols, whether within the four walls of my downtown apartment, in front of church or with another group of people (via caroling or during a Christmas Eve service somewhere). I love them all, but O Holy Night is by far my most favorite Christmas carol. I have favorites…as in I like most of them (with the exception of Presley’s Blue Christmas and Burl Ives croon Holly, Jolly Christmas – I could so do without those each year), but O Holy Night takes the cake.

Every year

Every time I hear it.

Yes, I’ll admit that the vocal range is pretty broad, but, if played in the right key(s), I can hit them all and this little personal form of excitement (a triumphant Hallelujah!) takes over.

I had the privilege of hearing this song played out and even got to sing it at a pre-Christmas Eve candlelight service I attended last night with a dear friend.

You see – I work until close this evening and wouldn’t have had an option of even attending a Christmas Eve service somewhere by the time I’m off. When my friend asked if I’d like to join her and her mom for last night’s service, I immediately said yes.

It was awesome

The gospel was taught enthusiastically and being on the other end of the music part of the service, well, it was a nice reprieve. I could sing as loud as I wanted and when I heard the beginning chords of O Holy Night, my heart soared, just as it has since I was a little girl.

My favorite Christmas hymn

One that brings my heart to its knees the moment the chorus hits

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, divine! O night, O night divine!

[I’m even listening to David Crowder’s version right now…ending on Jeff Buckley’s chorus of A Broken Hallelujah…beautiful).

And then my favorite part arrived: the last chorus where the “O night…” is drawn out on a “ritardando,” held and then finished out. [You can hear Selah’s version here].

My soul soared

Just as it always does

Two thousand years ago, in the midst of so much imperfection, Christ was born on what can be considered one of the most perfect nights even in the history of mankind. God used imperfection circumstances and an imperfect location in the form of a humble manger to bring His perfect and holy Son into our world.

He could have so easily made Jesus’ birth a triumphant one, allowing Christ to be born in a palace, but he didn’t.

He chose not to.

This was the only way he could save all of mankind.

It is through all that imperfection that made this night so holy and so perfect.

The way God brought Jesus into our world is very similar to the way he works in our lives.

More often than not, God takes our imperfections – situations, circumstances, personalities, etc. – and uses them to perfect us; to make us who he intended us to be at the dawn of creation.

God loves to take the physical and emotional scars and use those to help us grow into stronger people. He also desires that we take what we have learned from our imperfections and help others who may be struggling with similar things.

And just as Jesus was a light to reveal God to all nations, we can be that same light as well.

Perhaps that’s why I love this song so much. Through the lens of the cross, I see my imperfections, and in spite of the fact that I am my worst critic, Jesus gives me the grace, strength and mercy to be kind to myself and, in doing so, I’m able to see what God is doing with and through my imperfection and where he has started perfecting certain aspects of my person.

Don’t let your imperfections hinder you from what God has for you. Allow God to use them to shape you into the person he designed you to be – and be a light in this dark world. Submit your weakness to God so that he can turn them into your greatest strengths.

traditions: candlelight services

christmas-candle-for-alexis-blog-12212010When I was a child, the small-town church my family attended didn’t have a Christmas Eve service. Everything was held on Christmas Day, making it one of the busiest days of the year. The morning would start with chores (just as every other morning did…cows don’t take a day off, you know) which would promptly be followed by a flurry of getting ready and loading up the car – imagine one bathroom to six people, three of them girls. We’d drive off to church, attend the service, visit with a few people and then pack up and head off to Grandpa and Grandma’s for dinner and presents before we returned home to open ours.

I don’t miss that….the busyness.

When I was fifteen, that church finally made the switch to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. It gave us an additional four hours of free time on Christmas Day No more rushing from one place to the next, being too exhausted to even enjoy the time we spend with our immediate family.

I also discovered that I felt more at home in the presence of God at those candlelight services. The darkening of the room with only the candles to light the pages with Christmas carols to be sung aided in my imagining what the heavens must have looked like the night Jesus was born. So many stars, possibly including that bright one that led the wise men to his presence.

I’d also like to think that one day, when we join him in heaven, there will be an instant replay for everything that has ever happened in our history. I would love to watch that scene unfold.

It’s been thirteen years since my first candlelight service and I find that this is one tradition I look forward to most –  an evening where it’s just Jesus and me, no matter who I’m sharing the service with. I ponder the news of his birth and the implications his sacrifice has had on my life and I thank him for all that he’s done and continues to do.

What about you? What do you enjoy most about the Christmas season? Choose to allow God to use those traditions to remind you of what he did for you and where you’ve come from.

traditions: caroling

When I was a kid, the Calvinettes (now called G.E.M.S – Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) group I met with weekly on Monday evenings would go to the local nursing home and would sing Christmas carols. The same happened in high school when I joined the choir.

I loved it.

As a child, I loved to sing. I still do, but I loved it in that environment. I could sing at the top of my lungs if I wanted to and no one would care. It was the opportune moment.

I also enjoyed chatting with those older, and much wiser, people. Seeing us kids probably made them feel young for all of two hours and spending time with them was a blessing I won’t forget as long as I live.

Prior to the loss of my great grandfather in 1996, I enjoyed stopping by his room at that nursing home to visit.  When I was little, I’d curl up on his lap and listen to the stories he would tell and enjoy my one piece of old fashioned Christmas candy.

I miss those days.

Carols for me then, too, where another way to tell the world of Jesus.

Granted, most of those songs can be over sung and over-done, but I never tired of it. I still haven’t. The minute Halloween is over, I “season” in my holiday tunes and after Thanksgiving, they’re in full swing.

I love Christmas music and, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi, they’re here to stay.

He is credited with the first carols sun during a worship service. He’s also credited with the first Nativity display and introduced those carols during a Christmas midnight mass.

I have yet to join in on any caroling events here in Minneapolis…maybe next year now that I know they exist. I’m also thankful for the freedom to sing those songs here in America – each one (with the exception of those written for mainstream audiences) tells the story of Christ’s birth.

See today’s post on one of my favorites: Go Tell It on the Mountain.

© Anita J. Brands. 2013. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

the gift that keeps giving

O star of wonder, star of night
star with royal beauty bright
westward leading, still proceeding
guide us to thy perfect light

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understand; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3.5-6 NIV

It’s often difficult for people to understand that Jesus was born just like us. He wasn’t born in aec0a0944fcddc228e81e7188d91e0220 luxurious place or a fancy hospital. He was born outside, in a stable. He came into a world filled with sin, yet he lived an absolutely perfect life. He came to lead us, and guide us into a loving relationship with God.

When I hear this song, I’m reminded of the wise men’s example of what complete submission to God look likes. The moment they saw that star, they likely dropped everything they were doing and embarked on a long, difficult journey. These men had no idea where they were going, but placed their complete trust in that star and that it would lead to where they needed to be. They devoted everything in seeking the Messiah no matter the cost. They gave of themselves just as Christ gave of Himself.

That is the gift that keeps on giving.

No material possession costs more than the time and love we invest in one another and in our relationship with God. Nothing costs more than giving something of value (even material value) up.

Are there areas of your life that you need to surrender to God? Recall the last time you submitted something to God. What happened? What did He do?

What would it look like in our lives if we would drop everything the way the wise men did and devote our lives to Jesus? What would it look like to live our lives in such a way that the material possessions we do own have little to no value in comparison to what we have in Christ?

ours for the asking

O come, O come, Emanuel
and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel
Shall come to thee,
O Israel!

I literally hear a stringed orchestration of this song in my head when I read the title.

Beautiful

Haunting

A song about preparing

A song about waiting

And one of my favorites

As I read through the lyrics again, the music (again, in my head) pours over me and I feel hope.

2954f38ee615dc90269b6b4a24201813This song reminds me that hope doesn’t always mean that all is well. Hope doesn’t always mean we are on the right path or that everything will be okay. There wouldn’t be a need for hope if it were.

Hope is the sense that words like right, well, peace and wholeness are possible, but not right now.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11

The mournful sound of this song doesn’t gloss over the harshness of our world nor does the yearning downplay the sure and certain hope of God-with-us, light that puts dark to flight and peace for all creation. This song, more than any other for me, captures this state of in-between-ness. We’re caught between the hurt and the healing, the despair and hope  and the waiting for and seeing God’s Kingdom.

It’s when I listen to these words during the long, dark hours of winter (nights like this):

O come, O come, Emanuel
and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel
Shall come to thee,
O Israel!

My heart cries right along with it and those tears are as healing as the waters of baptism.

My challenge to you: listen to those words again in a version more to your liking. Join the generations that weep for los and long for hope. Know that despite of all that we see and experience here, this isn’t our final destination. Ask God to make that abundantly clear to you this holiday season.

O come, O come, Emanuel

—And if you’d like to “hear” what I often hear in my head…take a look at this arrangement by one of my favorite groups: The Piano Guys.