Let’s Sing: Away in a Manger

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 14th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

There is controversy surrounding the authorship of this beloved carol. In the end, the words are from an anonymous source. Some believe the song originated in Philadelphia around 1883.

There is no question about who discovered the hymn. In 1887 James R. Murray, a well recognized publisher and musician published the carol in his songbook Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses.

When Murray published “Away in a Manger,” he credited the 15th century theologian, reformer, and pastor/priest Martin Luther. Murray claimed that Luther not only wrote the hymn but that he sang it to his children when they were small. In theory that sounds wonderful but in truth, we already have a song Luther both wrote and sang to his children, “Von Himmel hoch da komm ich her.”

Some music scholars believe it is obvious Luther did not write the hymn and that it is an American creation. To support such a belief the scholars point to the work of Rev. Carlton Young, an editor on the United Methodist Hymnal. Young says when one looks at the German it is an obvious translation from English. Not being an authority on German in any way, I will have to take his word for it.

In the original version published by James Murray there were only two verse to the carol, both are considered anonymously written. Verse 3 is also unattributed. It first appeared in a songbook by gospel composer Charles H. Gabriel.

There are three primary tunes used with “Away in a Manger.” Two have used the title, “Luther’s Cradle Song.” Most popular in the United States was the tune Murray published in 1887. Much like the carol itself being mis-attributed to Martin Luther, credit for this version wrongly given to Carl Mueller. While the name of the “American” tune is “Luther’s Cradle Song,” the tune carry’s the more common name “Mueller” as well.

In England, “Luther’s Cradle Song,” more commonly just called, “Cradle Song” is the preferred tune. My wife Cindy and I have worked out an arrangement of both “Cradle Song” versions for flute and guitar.

A third tune often associated with “Away in a Manger” is “Flow Gently Sweet Afton.” This tune was used by many Americans during World War I as a negative response that seemed to follow all things German. When the war ended, Mueller became the most accepted tune once again.

The country-western singer Anne Murray has done an arrangement of the carol that actually uses all three tunes. She sings verse one to the tune of “Mueller.” Verse two using “Cradle Song.” And, for verse three she sings to the tune of “Flow Gently Sweet Afton.” It is a beautiful arrangement that I have admired for several years.

With the exception of “Jesus Loves Me,” “Away in a Manger” may be the first Christian song children learn in Sunday school, church, or at home. It is quite common for many children, particularly in Christian households to know this carol by memory and be able to sing it before they are ever able to read.

The simple tune and verses make this holiday standard a favorite. Because Christmas, even in the secular world, is so much about children, “Away in a Manger” will continue as a beloved hymn of the Church for generations to come.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserve

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 13th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

It has been said, “The two most important days in your life: The day you were born and the day you discover why.” I’ve been there. I get it. Since I graduated from high school I have been a retail worker, a sailor, a construction lab technician, a hot shot delivery driver, a movie operator, a computer operator, a computer room manager, a computer programmer and a preacher. I have spent the last thirty years (in June) doing that last one. I have come to understand that this is why I was born. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the work in any those other things (some of it, I didn’t enjoy at all). I wasn’t fulfilled. Something was missing.

I’m not exactly sure when I discovered the great “why” of my life. While it may be one of two most important days of my life, I can’t look back and say, “On this date I knew.” I can tell you the first most important date, the day I was born. But, for the second, I just don’t know.

Phillips Brooks, lyricist of one of the great hymns of the Church (to call it a Christmas carol limits it so), “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” had that same kind of discovery, but it wasn’t when he wrote this Christmas carol so many of us love.

Brooks was born December 13, 1835 in Boston. He went to Harvard and after graduating he started teaching school. He quickly became disillusioned when students didn’t seem as motivated as he would have liked. Brooks despair grew. He was never very effective with his students and was soon fired. He saw himself as a complete failure.

He was still searching for his “why.” With no better idea, Brooks enrolled in Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria Virginia. Brooks found his “why” as a Priest in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition.

Upon graduation from Virginia Theological Brooks was assigned as the rector of Trinity Church in Philadelphia. People flocked to hear him. Worship attendance grew as did the membership rolls of the congregation.

Though he was headed for hard times, Brooks grew to be the most popular and most effective preacher of his generation, really the entire 19th century.

Then the Civil War broke out. The war took its toll on Trinity Church in many ways. First, there was no one in the church, or elsewhere for that matter, who was not directly impacted by the war. Almost everyone knew, someone, family or friend who died or was severely wounded and disabled because of the war. There were other ways the war effected people, but this was one of the biggest. As the numbers mounted, people wanted the war to end. It impacted Brooks physically, emotionally and spiritually.

When the war did come to an end, Brooks had seemed to have lost his preaching power. Though he was not Lincoln’s pastor, he was asked to speak at the funeral. He dug deep and came out with words fitting for the occasion.

It wasn’t long before Brooks decided to take a sabbatical. He traveled to the Holy Land. On Christmas Eve, he rode out on a borrowed horse toward Bethlehem. What he saw there, saw of the peaceful little town spoke to him. The trip was powerful to Brooks.

When he returned he still struggled to find the right words to impact his congregation. As the Christmas season of 1868 approached, Brooks sat down to write a new Christmas hymn for the Sunday school at Trinity Church’s children’s Christmas pageant. He wrote the words in short order. Brooks was back.

He carried the quickly written poem to his church organist, Louis H. Redner. Tradition has it that Redner struggled with the music much as Brooks had struggled with the lyrics. On Christmas eve Redner gave up and went to bed. It was while lying in bed the tune came to him. The children sang it for the first time the next day.

From there, as it has been said, the rest is history. They hymn spread across Europe and then to North America. We all know it today as one of the great hymns of both Christmas and Church history.

Phillips Brooks became an Episcopal Bishop in 1891 and assigned to Boston. He died 15 months later.

The two great moments of life, when we are born and when we discover why. It is a great quote. But there are many people who never reach that second great moment. It is sad that someone can go through life and never know or understand why they are here. For many of them it is because they never look. They are to busy trying to find happiness to know that real happiness comes from God who put each of us here for a reason. When we find that reason, when we live out the why of God putting us here, when we respond to God’s call on our lives it is only then we will truly be happy.

Phillips Brooks found his “Why.” I believe I have found mine. Have you found yours? What are you waiting for?

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_Brooks

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas,
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the
Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, 
Nashville:
Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your
Favorite Christmas Carols
, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

Let’s Sing: Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 12th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

1 Infant holy, infant lowly, 
for his bed a cattle stall; 
oxen lowing, little knowing 
Christ the babe is Lord of all. 
Swift are winging angels singing, 
noels ringing, tidings bringing: 
Christ the babe is Lord of all. 
Christ the babe is Lord of all. 

2 Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping 
vigil ’til the morning new 
saw the glory, heard the story, 
tidings of a gospel true. 
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, 
praises voicing, greet the morrow: 
Christ the babe was born for you. 
Christ the babe was born for you. 

It is always interesting to me how we can make an assumption and turn out to be totally wrong. Until I became a United Methodist some 35 years ago, much like “In the Bleak Midwinter” I don’t think I had ever heard this carol. When I did hear it I loved it. At some point during Advent/Christmas, I make sure this is a song we sing sometime for worship during these seasons.

The assumption I made back then was, this is a (at that time) contemporary Christmas song. When I started working on today’s post I learned, I was wrong. It is not a contemporary song at all. Both the arrangement of the music and the translation of the lyrics date back to the mid 1920s. It was definitely not a song contemporary to the 1970s or 1980s.

Edith M. G. Reed translated the lyrics, referred to as “Polish Carol” in the United Methodist Hymnal, in 1925. She arranged an old traditional Polish melody that is the musical setting for the carol in 1926.

Eastern Europe has a great wealth of music available to us but because of World War II and the Cold War that followed little made it to the West. This is one song that did.

I decided to do something a bit different with the blog today. Here is “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-infant-holy-infant-lowly-1

The First Christmas Card (Manuscript)

As a kid, I remember my parents getting a lot of Christmas cards. They came from many different places. Dad’s oldest brother lived in Kansas. He had other family out in California. He also had some in Oklahoma. Mom’s family was all fairly close when I was really young but later her older brother and her younger sister lived in Colorado and Spokane Washington in their Air Force days. Dad also had Navy buddies he maintained some of those relationships for a while. Something, however, was missing.

Christmas cards have always been intriguing to me. Some are intriguing unless they are trying to be funny and completely missing the mark. There are also some that actually set their sights on being funny and made their goal. Others leave me thinking there are only so many ways of saying the same thing. Still others amaze me and actually do find a way to say something new.

I am also someone who goes into a card shop or card isle, spend a few minutes looking around at three or four cards, give or take a few, find the one I like best, pay for it and get out of there. I am not going to stand around looking for the perfect card.  I don’t have the patience for that. I pick out a nice card (which will probably be at least an attempt at humor), buy it, and move on.

Christmas cards have long been a part, almost 200 years,of Christmas celebration. The first Christmas card, as we know it, was designed in 1843 by artist J. C. Horsley. It measured about the size of a postcard. And Horsley had 1000 cards lithographed and hand-colored for Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the South Kensington Museum in London.

The first Christmas card shows a Victorian era family celebrating the gentle spirit of the Christmas season around the table. Take a look at the screen or on the cover of your bulletin. That is a digital reproduction of the actual first Christmas card. In the picture they’re making a toast to the health and happiness of their family, friends and nation. Flanking the scene of Christmas cheer and celebration is carrying out the biblical concern for clothing the naked and “feeding the hungry “the printed picture includes a lettered greeting underneath.

When I started thinking about this picture, it makes me start to question what our Christmas cards would have to say. That could present some interesting dilemmas in some of our homes.

In our lesson this morning, Paul gives us a great place to start our look for a message for a Christmas card. In this text we really don’t consider a Christmas text at all we can have some interesting thoughts that fit right in line with what a Christmas card should say. The lesson gives us several ideas about how our Christmas cards should look.

First, might we have A Christmas card that says, “rejoice in the Lord?” The idea of rejoicing seems to me to be a great message for a Christmas card. Mary, in a lesson we will look at next week, rejoiced despite what God was asking her to do. In that passage, which the church has come to call the Magnificat, Mary sings praises to God. She rejoices about being a servant of the Lord.

In the nativity story from the second chapter of Luke we can find can read of the shepherds having just observed the newborn Christ child, they left glorifying and praising God. They were rejoicing, being in the presence of God. What a Christmas card picture that presents in our minds when we read the story of the shepherds and the Christmas.

Sometime back, I read a story written by the late Senator John McCain. He told of his time in a Vietnamese prisoner of war. McCain was the one who the others selected to say the prayer and lead the worship service on Christmas Eve. They chose him he said, not because of any excessive virtue someone might have thought he had, but because he knew all the prayers for a worship service, having gone to a Christian boarding school and also an active member of the Episcopal Church.

McCain said he and the other prisoners of war asked for a Bible, and the Vietnamese said they didn’t have any. Later they learned people and organizations in the US had spent thousands of dollars to get Bibles into the hands of POW Christians. It didn’t work.

Four days before Christmas, the North Vietnamese guards made a Bible available to McCain and allowed him to hand copy prayers and stories from the only Bible the Vietnamese said they had.

Finally, the worship service consisted of McCain reading a Biblical passage, followed by an appropriate song sung by a small choir. McCain then talked about the Birth of Christ, then the choir closed the service singing “Silent Night.”

McCain said he looked around the room and there were tears in those men’s eyes. They weren’t tears of anger or fright or sorrow or bitterness or even longing for home. They were tears of joy that for the first time in seven years for some of them, there was a reception a celebration of Christmas together as Americans.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!” Yes, it seems to me rejoicing in the Lord’s is a great Christmas card message from Christians to the world.

Second, another great message for our Christmas card might be, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” What in the world could we ever find gentler than a tiny baby? No, a baby isn’t always peaceful. Any of us who have raised children know the shattering of peace in the night that comes with a baby crying. In truth, that same baby, can never hurt another person, at least not in a physical way. God created a baby as a creature of gentleness. It is only as that baby becomes older, bigger, and stronger that we learn and see otherwise. Could it be that such is what God just might be calling us to be. If that is our call and I believe it is, we would have be hard pressed to find a better message for our Christmas card.

In medieval times there was a wonderful legend, which said on Christmas Eve the Christ child wandered through the world looking for places where there would he would be welcomed. Those who loved him, hoping he might find their homes, they placed lighted candles in the windows to invite him into their homes. No one, of course, knew for sure in what guise the Christ child might appear. Perhaps he would come dressed in the rags of a beggar, or he might come as a poor and lonely child. He also might appear incognito in the form of a disabled person or a blind person who were put out to roam the streets of medieval cities. Or, maybe he would come back as a person who had lost a loved one and needed someone to listen to their story.

So it became customary for devout Christians to locate and welcome into their homes who cane to their doors on Christmas Eve. To turn any away might have meant the rejection of the Christ child who had come in unfamiliar garb during the advent season. Remember the Christ child wandering our streets, looking for homes where he will find warmth and shelter. New candles in the windows, the candles in the windows of our homes and the light of the advent wreath candles in our church symbolize to all our community that Christ is our guest. Here is a place where there is room in our hearts for him. When he is in our hearts, it says our gentleness is, or at least should be, evident to all who see us. What a great Christmas card message that would be during the advent season. We remember The Christ child is wandering in the streets, looking for homes where he will be where he will find warmth and shelter. In candles the candles in the windows of our homes and the lighting of the advent wreath candles in our church symbolize to all in our community that Christ is our guest here. This is a place where there is room in our hearts for him, if we allow him into our hearts, Scripture says our gentleness is, or at least it should be evident, for all to see who see us . What a great Christmas card message that would be.

Third, our Christmas card might say, “The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to take a look at the world around us and see peace isn’t the norm. One look at the Evening News can tell us more than we want to know. From Afghanistan to Iraq and ran to race riots and even more, there is turmoil saying there is anything but peace. At the same time, we don’t even have to look that far. While we would love to say we are the exception, the truth is, such actions are far more the norm than the exception. For so many , peace is the thing last thing on their mind.

A young woman approached Christmas when her life was in turmoil and the holiday frenzy made it even worse. Exhausted from cooking and shopping and decorating, she found the pressures in her personal life threatening to push her over the edge. She threw her hands up in despair and went to seek comfort from a friend. She said, “I’ve lost any sense of peace and serenity.”

“The world can’t give you serenity,” her friend replied. “the world can’t give you peace. We can only find serenity and peace in our hearts. That’s the bad news. The good news is, by the same token, the world can’t take it away either.”

The lesson doesn’t speak of peace in the world. It speaks of God’s peace in our hearts. As long as there are people in the world, mayhem and chaos will be part of it as well. If we want to find peace, we need to look to God and the place it can be found in our hearts. God’s peace is the only real peace we will find. It is the only piece guarding our hearts and minds.

There is a benevolent ministry near San Diego called “friend to friend.” shortly before Christmas a few years ago ayoung woman it came to “friend to friend” in the middle of the night. She was homeless, living on the streets, LA many mentaly ill, addicted and high. She came through the door crying, barefoot and with torn clothes. She had been assaulted and beaten- it was cold and rainy and she had nowhere to go. It would seem she should have had limited knowledge about real peace. She had seen the white of the ministry center, knew of its reputation , and had taken a chance she would find help. The volunteers and climate clients who were there found her a change of clothes, heavy socks, and some old tennis shoes, a new jacket, and a blanket, food and first aid. She finally stopped crying and said, much to everyone’s surprise, “this is such a peaceful place. God must be here with us tonight.” A woman who seemed to know no peace, also knew real peace.

A great message for our Christmas card is, “the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” that would be a great Christmas prayer too.

Former Yale chaplain and seminary president John W. Vander stoel writes, “one of the meanings of Christmas is, God does not want to hurt me or you.” in spite of the fact that, “God must watch his whales diet, and our submarines increase,” God comes to us with a message of love, not wrath.“ that is why it seems to so remarkable to me when God comes to speak God’s word to us, that word becomes a tiny child. A child announced by singing, not by Thunder. A child born by lamplight in the silent night, rather than in a world which shakes mountains, has pouring rivers of unstoppable fire down every side. The word becomes a tiny child which can be revealed and received and cannot hurt us: a word which does not make us afraid. I am prepared for the anger of God, and believe God has the right to his wrath. What is so amazing is, when God comes among us, whatever’s hurt whatever is indignant About God, God comes not with violence, but with love, even as a child vulnerable 2 hour further hurt.”

In Paul’s words, words that are really not a Christmas message, we find three great Christmas messages for the Christmas cards of our hearts.“ rejoice in the Lord… Let your gentleness be evident to all… And the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Any of those would make a great Christmas message. Together, however, what we may just find is, God’s Christmas message to us. It might just say, “rejoice with gentleness and peace in your hearts and in your minds.”

The First Christmas Card

Worship from Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church, Nacogdoches Texas on December 13, 2020. The Scripture lesson was Philippians 4:4-9 and the sermon title is “The First Christmas Card,”

Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, Common English Bible).

Tomorrow @ Perritte

Tomorrow is the Third Sunday of Advent. In our worship tomorrow at Perritte United Methodist Church we are going to talk a bit about a popular instrument of yesteryear, the Christmas card. Much of what is said in Christmas cards comes from the pages of Scripture. If we were to write our own Christmas cards, what would they say?

The sermon tomorrow is titled, “The First Christmas Card.” The Scripture lesson is Philippians 4:4-9. Sunday school begins at 10:00 and worship starts at 11:00. I hope you will join us for for a great hour of worship.

Let’s Sing: Good Christian Friends Rejoice

A.K.A. Good Christian Men Rejoice

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 11th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

I knew it would come, I just didn’t know which Carol was first. This old carol was written in an era that inclusive speech was a completely foreign idea. I do like the idea of Christian friends rejoicing together.

This hymn is quite old and know one knows its lyricist or when it was written. There are many who believe Heinrich Seuse, a German mystic wrote the first version of the carol in 1328. Seuse said he heard the angels singing the words. We, of course, have no way to prove this ever took place. It is also said that Martin Luther wrote one of the verses in the 1500s.

In 1745 a group of Moravians sang the hymn in 13 different European languages and Native American dialects. John M. Neale translated the version we use today.

The little black dots (the music for those that don’t get my humor) are almost as old as the lyrics and date back to 1400 or before. The composer is unknown. Both the lyricist and composer

I wouldn’t say “Good Christian Friends Rejoice,” is my favorite Carol. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone who would say this carol is their favorite. But perhaps we all like it enough to keep congregations singing it every year.

1 Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ was born today.
Ox and ass before him bow, and he is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

2 Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened heaven’s door, and we are blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

3 Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
now ye need not fear the grave: 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! 

The opening line of each verse begins the same way, “Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice…” Rejoice friends with all you are and all you have.

Verse 1 continues, “give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ was born today. Ox and ass before him bow, and he is in the manger now, Christ is born today…” Pay attention to the singer, proclaiming the birth of Jesus. He is not just our Lord, but the Lord of all creation. Who? Jesus who lies in the manger.

Here the joy around us all now. See and hear the blessing God brings to us. All this is grace, opening heavens door where we will experience God’s blessing for all time and forever more because Jesus came to save us. He saves us, he calls us all so we might gain eternal life. That my friends is grace on display.

We don’t need to fear the future, the future beyond our own death because we have grace that comes from the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It calls us to move beyond ourselves to something bigger and more permanent. We have all this because of the birth of Jesus we celebrate his birth as something that never will leave us, even on the other side of the grave.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources:
https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-good-christian-friends-rejoice
https://www.christianity.com/blogs/dr-ray-pritchard/good-christian-men-rejoice.html

Let’s Sing: In the Bleak Midwinter

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 10th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

1. In the bleak mid-winter frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter long ago.

2. Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

3. Enough for Him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
A breast-full of milk and a manger-full of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

4. Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air,
But only His mother in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved with a kiss.

5. What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, give my heart.


Prior to Christmas in 1991 if I had ever heard this hymn, I do not know when that was. When I entered the ministry this was a completely unfamiliar hymn.

That year, my first in the ministry, I attended a Christmas party held by my District Superintendent, Rev. Connie Winborn. Connie was helpful to a new pastor starting out in ministry. Now retired, he is now a part of my good friend, Jay Jackson’s congregation at First UMC in Longview Texas.

The entertainment that evening was brought by Rev. Jerry House Jr. Jerry is a very talented guitar player and even more talented singer. As a side note, I have heard Jerry preach as well and he has a lot of talent there too. He seems to make full use of the gifts God has entrusted in with.

An English-Italian poet, Christina Georgina Rossetti wrote the poem, originally titled “A Christmas Carol.” It was first published in Scribner’s Monthly, in 1872. It was not until 12 years after Rosetti’s death that the poem was given its voice, its music. Gustov Hoist and Edwin Drake produced musical settings for the carol.

Rossetti’s parents, both from Italy valued the arts. Her brothers were classical painters. It becomes easy to see her family’s love for the arts.

Rossetti, born to Italian parents in England, was schooled at home by her mother. She suffered from Grave’s disease, a chronic thyroid disease. She lost her life at age 64 due to breast cancer. It is interesting that a person who suffered so much in her life would tell a story of great joy. It is a story that tells the story of Jesus’ birth from its physical circumstances.

This hymn still holds great popularity. That is the case especially for choir directors and and choir masters. According to a 2008 study by Liberty University said is was the favorite carol among those who participated.

I wish I had known of this carol years before I did. I had missed something that I truly enjoy today. But, I am thankful I know it now. I feel blessed from that December night in 1991.

I know this is late getting posted. By the time I get it posted it will be a day late but I will get it caught up. December is a busy time for all of us and sermons do take priority. I pray your December is going well.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Bleak_Midwinter
https://www.godtube.com/popular-hymns/in-the-bleak-midwinter/#:~:text=%22In%20the%20Bleak%20Midwinter%22%20is,of%20the%20Incarnation%20in%20Bethlehem.
https://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/in_the_bleak_midwinter.htm

Let’s Sing: Angels From the Realm of Glory

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 9th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

Our lives can talk a lot of twists and turns. Such would be the case for James Montgomery, an Irishman who spent most of his life living in England. Such was no small task in the England of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Montgomery was born in Scotland to an Irish Moravian pastor and his wife. By the time Montgomery was seven, his parents had left England, and him, to head to the mission field where they would die in the mission service.

When his parents left for the mission field, they left him in a boarding school. By the time Montgomery was 10 he was writing poetry, but that was the only thing he was interested in doing. He left school by the time he was 14 for academic reasons.

For the next several years Montgomery worked at times and was unemployed and homeless at times. He used much of his money to purchase pencil and paper.

Though no publisher was interested in his writing, the editor of the radical Sheffield Register could see Montgomery’s raw talent. Montgomery spent the next two years writing stories for the paper. The paper used much of its content to bring forward the struggle the Irish faced with the English. When the radical editor had to flee England under threat of persecution, Montgomery took over leadership of the paper and changed the name to the Sheffield Iris. But, if anyone thought the paper would change with the masthead change would be wrong. Montgomery continued to press on the Irish-English issue and also brought forward the evils of the slave trade in the paper. His writing resulted in two prison terms.

Those who supported Montgomery’s stands continued to scour the paper for more of his fiery editorials. On Christmas Eve 1816 Montgomery surprised his readers with his poem “Nativity.” The words of the poem sought more to unite than divide in saying that Jesus Christ came for everyone. Though the poem didn’t say as much, the implication was, Irish and English alike.

As Montgomery’s life continued he began to understand his parent’s calling to the mission field. He returned to his roots in the Moravian church and working hard in the support of missions.

Though “Nativity” was popular, it would have most likely faded away if not for the English composer Henry Smart. Smart was at odds with the Anglican Church clergy who saw the people in the pews as spectators in worship. Smart believed worship was something in which everyone should participate. The chants that were church music of the day did little to encourage this. Smart, following in the footsteps of the likes of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley helped to make great strides in church music. The common Christian loved the new music and began to demand it be part of worship.

By the time Smart was eighteen years old, he was going blind. By the time Montgomery published “Nativity” in the Iris Christmas Even of 1816, Smart probably was unable to read it. Yet years later, someone read him the poem and he put it to music. He gave it a new title and the world had a new Christmas carol to use in celebration of the days of Christmas.

For the England of the early 19th century, the alliance of Montgomery and Smart, an Irishman and an Englishman was an unlikely combination. There is little or no evidence indicating that the two actually collaborated together on the piece. Still God brought together these two men in an unlikely partnership.

How has God done the unlikely in you?

 Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_from_the_Realms_of_Glory

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-angels-from-the-realms-of-glory

Let’s Sing: What Child is This?

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 8th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

As a pastor, it is not uncommon for me to hear from someone saying, “We need to sing more of the old hymns. At times it makes me tempted to go through the hymnal and find the oldest hymns in the book. Along with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we discussed a few days ago, today’s selection could easily make the list. The song’s history goes back at least as far as King Henry VIII of England who lived from 1491-1547. This is the same King Henry who broke from the Roman Catholic Church when Pope Clement VII refused to grant him an annulment from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon in 1527.

According to legend, King Henry wrote the original lyrics of “Greensleeves” when he courted his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The song became permanently tied to King Henry through the work of William Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The song was originally registered to a man named Richard Jones in 1580. In truth, music scholars believe the tune is much older. It is an ancient English folk song and people have written as many as 20 different sets of lyrics for use with the music. For much of it’s life, “Greensleeves” was a song living in the pubs of England. It was a popular drinking song almost as beloved by Englanders as “God Save the Queen.”

It is doubtful that when William Chatterton Dix began writing the words to his poem “The Manger Throne” he had “Greensleeves” in mind at all. Dix was a poet, not a lyricist. It is said that for Dix it was all about poetry though he made his living in the insurance industry in Glasgow Scotland. For him, his business, insurance, was just a means to an end, writing poetry.

Tragedy struck Dix with a near fatal illness that left him confined to his bed for months. During this time he reflected on his faith and read his Bible. When he did regain his strength he was inspired to write his greatest work, including “What Child is This?”

In an era where Christmas was not a commercial enterprise and the Church worked hard to keep it as a day of worship, few writers wrote about the birth of Christ. Dix bucked the trend. There is no record as to why Dix choose to write on the first Christmas but it is known that he was inspired. He wrote “The Manger Throne” in a single sitting.

Dix published the poem just as the Civil War in the United States was coming to an end. The poem not only spoke to those in Great Britian but also to Christians in both the North and the South of the United States.

As inspred as the words of Dix might be, they would probably be forgoten by most, only a few serious readers of poetry remembering them had it not been for the efforts of an unknown Englishman who paired Dix’s lyrics with the “Greensleeves” melody under the name, “What Child is This?”

Unlike many others, Dix actually did live to see his words become famous. And, as we all know, today it is a Christmas classic.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.
Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.
Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.
Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Child_Is_This%3F
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_VIII_of_England