Let’s Sing: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 7th 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/.

This great hymn came about because of the struggles of a Unitarian preacher struggling with his Christmas Eve sermon in 1849. Though Unitarians are not known for their widespread beliefs on the divinity of Jesus, such was not the case for Edmond H. Sears. Later in his life he wrote that while a Unitarian, he believed and preached the divinity of Jesus Christ.

I certainly understand struggling with sermons sometimes. At times we feel like we need just the right words to convey a particular point. That is where Sears found himself. Sears saw the country struggling through three different points of tension. Though the Civil War was more than ten years away, the national tensions over slavery  were very present. The Industrial Revolution in the Northeast was another place where tensions ran high. The third element was the California Gold Rush of 1849. The triple-threat was anything but peaceful and this is where Sears found his struggle. At a time we read about “peace on earth” there just wasn’t much peace. Could it be that we are seeing history repeat itself today? Later, in the dark days of the Civil War, Sears wrote in his journal, “Desperately, desperately does this great but war ravaged nation need the healing power of the Prince of Peace.”

We should understand that about this hymn as we face more than three. I am going to lift up three. First, the election results bring us to points of contention. With one group shouting that the election is over there is no fraud and it’s time to move on. At the same time, another group saying “It’s not over without a full investigation on voter fraud and every vote is counted. It makes a tense setting. Second is the Covid pandemic with some who refuse to follow the advice of medical professionals regarding gatherings, social distancing, and wearing a mask. Third, “Black Lives Matter” vs. defunding police. Regardless of which side you may side with, I think we can all agree, it is a major point of contention and disagreement. I feel certain there are many more. These are the big ones. I feel certain there are more. It does indeed make it difficult to say, “Peace on earth and good will to people,” when surrounded by stress points at what seems like it’s everywhere.

In writing the hymn, Sears primarily focused on Luke 2:8-9, “Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified” (Common English Bible). This focus makes “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” an unusual Christmas Carol because the focus is not on the Nativity but on the announcement of the angels to the shepherds. For Sears, there was a desire to focus on social justice. It may be the first social justice hymn written by an American.

After thinking these verses for a while, Sears began to write a five verse poem. He also retrieved from his files another Christmas poem had had written sometime before. He opened the sermon with the poem he wrote first, had a short sermon and closed the sermon with the new poem. The second verse having the social justice element.

Besides being a preacher, Sears was also a magazine and newspaper editor. He took advantage of his position the next week and published the poem in The Christian Register under the name, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”

It is likely that one reader, Richard Storrs Willis, an avid reader, saw the poem in the Register. Willis had spent part of his educational years studying in Germany under Felix Mendelssohn. Willis recognized that Sears’ him fit perfectly a tune Willis had simply named “Carol.” In 1850, Willis published Sears’ words with his own tune under the uninspired and unassuming tune, “Study Number 23.” Ten years later Willis did a new arrangement of the tune and republished it under the title, “While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks by Night.” While today we use Sears’ title to the piece, it is this second arrangement most commonly sung in the United States today.

It is interesting that a song that speaks so strongly of “Peace on Earth” and “peace” gained its world-wide fame due to war. American soldiers, during World War I carried the tune with them and sang it during the Christmas holidays. Several years later, World War II soldiers followed suit. The song was popular on USO tours in both the European and Pacific theaters with the likes of Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore singing the haunting melody. The lyrics of peace on earth resonated with homesick soldiers.

While wars helped the American hymn to become known and popular in other parts of the world, Willis’ “Carol” continues to be the tune used in American hymnals. Christians in England have taken a different route. British hymnals most commonly use the tune “Noel” by British composer, Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Regardless of the tune one uses to sing it by, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” remains one of the great joys of Christmas for Christians around the world.

Be Blessed.
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.

Silent Night: The Stories of 40 Beloved Christmas Carols, Uhrichsville: Barbour, 2013.

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

http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-it-came-upon-a-midnight-clear

Let’s Sing: O Come, All Ye Faithful

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our sixth 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/.

Jesus was born into controversy when King Herod learned of the birth of the King of the Jews from the Magi who traveled to find the new baby. The controversy happened when Herod ordered male children executed.

So, why should a song about Jesus’ birth not have some level of controversy surrounding it? Such is the case for “Adeste Fideles,” the original name of the popular carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

The lyrics were first believed to have come from a group of Cistercian monks, but even that theory was surrounded in controversy. During different historical periods, monks in Germany, and Spain have received credit. Another who received credit was St. Bonaventure in the 13th century. Yet another theory gave credit to King John IV of Portugal, known as the Musician King.

Just as with the lyrics there has been controversy around the music too. Men such as John Reading, Frederick Handel and Christoph Willibald Gluck have received credit. Others who received credit for the music are Thomas Arne, Marcos Portugal and King John IV of Portugal.

Probably the most common assertion for both the music and lyrics was they were that of an unknown cleric of the Middle Ages. Many theories all proven wrong by English scholar, Maurice Frost who discovered seven handwritten and signed manuscripts from an English Catholic Priest named John Francis Wade.

Wade was a holy man caught in a great conflict within England. The conflict was so great, Wade along with many other English-Catholics were risking their lives to live and worship in England. It resulted in Roman Catholic worship moving underground. Many priests, including Wade were forced from the country. Wade immigrated to France.

During this period of history, many in the English government attempted to rid the country of all its Catholic records, including the music of the Church. Wade, a calligrapher by training as well as being a notable musician, was given the task of finding as much of the music and to log and preserve it for future generations. Wade took the job very seriously. He searched everywhere to find the music and make record of it.

During this period Wade not only logged and preserved music, he was also inspired to write music as well. Because he was a Catholic priest it is completely reasonable that he would write in Latin. Around 1750 Wade finished writing his most well-known tune, “Adeste Fideles” and the next year published the work in his own book, Cantus Diversi. It would take Wade another ten years to put lyrics with his melody.

It is entirely possible that Wade’s work on “O Come All Ye Faithful” was influenced by someone like St. Bonaventure or some other cleric of his era. The legends giving St. Bonaventure or others still persist. In light of evidence of the manuscripts discovered by Frost and other published writings, Wade should be given credit for the work.

In 1841, some sixty years after Wade’s death, Frederick Oakley translated the Latin to English. For some reason, however, Oakley neglected to give Wade his credit and thus started the many legends about the hymn’s authorship.

In the United States and other English speaking countries the hymn really became known in the early 1900s. It was at that time many churches began using the carol, it was included in many hymnals and it became a caroling standard.

The first group known to have recorded the carol was the premier musical group of the era, the Peerless Quartet in 1905. At a time when radio was not yet playing music to the masses,  thousands of singles were sold and the release went to number seven on the National Hit Parade. In 1915 Irish tenor John McCormack took the carol to number two. Ten years later the carol made it back onto the charts with a recording by the American Glee Club.

In a period of history when the Church was quite literally at war with itself, a time period when Christians were killing Christians over being Christians, we have the voice of a lone Catholic priest who quietly sings, “O Come all ye faithful.”

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/O_Come,_All_Ye_Faithful
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Francis_Wade

Let’s Sing

Through the month of December, we are taking a look at some of the songs of the season we love so much.

The purpose of this page is to provide an index for the songs during this month. If you miss a day, rather than pour through your newsfeed, feel free to come here, bookmark the page and I will continue to update the page. I pray you enjoy these songs and their stories as much as I do.

December 1 “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”
revbroyles.me/2020/12/02/o-come-o-come-emanuel/
December 2 “O Come, O Come Emanuel”
revbroyles.me/2020/12/02/o-come-o-come-emanuel/
December 3 “The Hallelujah Chorus”
revbroyles.me/2020/12/03/the-hallelujah-chorus/
December 4 “Emanuel, Emanuel”
revbroyles.me/2020/12/04/emanuel-emanuel/
December 5 “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates”
revbroyles.me/2020/12/05/lift-up-your-heads-ye-mighty-gates/
December 6 “O Come All Ye Faithful”
revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing-o-come-all-ye-faithful/
December 7 “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
https://revbroyles.me/2020/12/07/lets-sing-it-came-upon-a-midnight-clear/
December 8 “What Child is This?
http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/09/lets-sing-what-child-is-this/
December 9 “Angels from the Realms of Glory”
http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/09/lets-sing-angels-from-the-realm-of-glory/
December 10 “In the Bleak Mid-Winter”
http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/11/lets-sing-in-the-bleak-midwinter
December 11 “Good Christian Friends Rejoice”
http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/11/lets-sing-good-christian-friends-rejoice/
December 12 “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”
http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/13/lets-sing-infant-holy-infant-lowly/
December 13 “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/13/o-little-town-of-bethlehem/
December 14

December 15

Sunday Worship @ Perritte Memorial

Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, December 6, 2020

The season of Advent, in many congregations means it is also cantata season. This week would, under normal circumstances be cantata Sunday. But, as is the case so often these Covid days, we at Perritte would be hard pressed right now to do a cantata, mostly due to social distancing.

So, we decided to do something different this year. So, December 6th,we will hold Christmas Music Sunday. During our normal 11:00 worship hour members of our congregation will preform Christmas music. You will see friends performing together, solo and ensemble performances, and music from the praise band “Hearts Afire,” at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Sunday school begins at 10:00 and a worship service of Christmas music begins at 11:00. We hope you will join us. If you are unable to attend in person, join us online at the Perritte Church Facebook group. Follow the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/68531799825

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Let’s Sing: Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates


This is the first post in the blog series Let’s Sing. To find the other posted Carols of the season, see the index, https://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/

A Net in Time

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates
Behold, the King of glory waits
The King of kings is drawing near
The Savior of the world is here

O blest the land, the city blest
Where Christ the Ruler is confessed
O happy hearts and happy homes
To whom this King in triumph comes

Redeemer, come, with us abide; 
our hearts to thee we open wide; 
let us thy inner presence feel; 
thy grace and love in us reveal.

Thy Holy Spirit lead us on 
until our glorious goal is won; 
eternal praise, eternal fame 
be offered, Savior, to thy name! (UMH)

The great Advent hymn, “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates,” was written by a German-Lutheran pastor from East Prussia by the name of Georg Weissel. Weissel was also a writer of hymns and filled an important role in 17th century western history.

There has been talk in recent years in our society about the length of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some have talked about how a child not born yet on September 11, 2001 could be fighting in the war that began due to 9/11. We are rapidly approaching a twenty-year-old war.

Imagine a war ten years longer. For Weissel, who was born in 1590 and only lived 45 years, the war covered a big part of his life. He saw at least some of the causes of the war take place in his younger years. As Ferdinand II rose to power in the Holy Roman Empire, he tried to force Catholicism across the empire. While there were other factors in the war, Ferdinand’s actions were the biggest factor. For a man who would become a Lutheran pastor, it was a difficult position.

It is generally accepted that the war began in 1618 and ended 30 years later, therefore, in 1648. Weissel would have been 28-years-old when the war began. He saw the height of this war that, depended on who you read, civilian and military deaths over the course of the war was between four and eight million

Weissel, who died in 1635 died at height of the war, saw unbelievable difficulties in Germany. Because of plagues, various other disasters, and the flight of refugees from the war-torn parts of central Europe, the population of Germany alone it the fell from 16 million to 6 million.

Despite all the tremendous difficulties, grief, and pain going on around him, Weissel found Psalm 24 to be inspiring and that inspiration led him to write, “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates.”

Mighty gates: lift up your heads!
    Ancient doors: rise up high!
        So the glorious king can enter!
Who is this glorious king?
    The Lord—strong and powerful!
    The Lord—powerful in battle!
Mighty gates: lift up your heads!
    Ancient doors: rise up high!
        So the glorious king can enter!
Who is this glorious king?
    The Lord of heavenly forces—
        he is the glorious king! Selah (Psalm 24:7-10, Common English Bible)

The language of gates and doors rising up to let in the Glorious King, a strong and powerful monarch, “the Lord of heavenly Forces.”

The words Weissel penned closely parallel the words of the psalmist. The allusions to war in the psalm had to remind Weissel of Europe’s war that had to seem without end.

The hymn was published posthumously in 1642. John Wesley, one of many who translated this hymn is sometimes credited with being its first translator from German to English. The translation most often used today in hymnals was the 1855 translation of notable British hymn translator Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878).

I find it interesting that today we use this hymn, born out of tragedy, difficulty, and pain is a hymn used by today’s Church to usher in one of the most joyous times of the Christian year.

At the same time, however, we should also not forget that the birth of Jesus was not immune from pain and tragedy of that day. The forced march to everyone’s home city and the deaths of untold baby boys in an effort of early genocide.

In all we see today, from a war against a disease, an invisible foe, to difficulties related such as losses of jobs, and unrelated, the difficulties we see and experience in race relations, and such is in our own corner of the world.

And still, “The King of Glory waits.” Come Lord Jesus.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources
The United Methodist Hymnal #213, United Methodist Publishing House, 1989
Hawn, M, http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-lift-up-your-heads-ye-mighty-gates
Myers, Whitney V. https://www.whitneytunes.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_Years’_War
https://www.history.com/topics/reformation/thirty-years-war
https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-worldhistory/chapter/the-thirty-years-war/

Let’s Sing: Emanuel, Emanuel


This is the fourth post in the blog series Let’s Sing. To find the other posted Carols of the season, see the index, https://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/

Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
his name is called Emmanuel.
God with us, revealed in us,
his name is called Emmanuel.

Sometimes I don’t understand how a song becomes a “Christmas song.” For example, “My Favorite Things” from the classic musical, The Sound of Music, gets airplay, quite a bit of airplay on those radio stations that, from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. It may not get as much air time as more traditional Christmas songs as perhaps, “Silent Night” or “Jingle Bells, but it gets play regardless. The song is all about the singer and what the singer likes, the person’s favorite things which apparently never mentions Jesus or Santa Claus like we anticipate it will.

“Emanuel, Emanuel (I did try to spell Emanuel correctly but found it with Emanuel and Emmanuel.” I found roughly equal numbers on each spelling. I had to make a decision and I decided to go with the one that had the fewest letters) is just such a song. Emanuel, Emanuel could be sung anytime. God with us. Think about it this way, every day, at all times, God is with us.

Further, if we are living our life, according to the Spirit, God with us, remains with us, and, God is revealed to the word through us.

As I write this post, my mind goes to Mother Thresa. Here is a woman who wanted to be that shining light for God so bad, she gave up everything and went to work as a missionary serving the poorest of the poor. She never asked for any kind of special consideration, she just worked and she loved the people she came to serve. She lived among them, ate with them, cared for them and in turn, she became one of them.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Let’s Sing: The Hallelujah Chorus


This is the third post in the blog series Let’s Sing. To find the other posted Carols of the season, see the index, https://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/

Well friends, I made a mistake on the calendar. The calendar said, “Come Though Long Expected Jesus” was today’s song. That would have been fine except we just talked about that hymn day before yesterday. I don’t have that much to say about it so I found something else.

Not too many years ago, flash mobs (groups of people who gathered in a public place and sang for whoever might be gathered or passing by. Many different songs were sung, including the “Hallelujah Chorus” and many others. I found a video of a flash mob singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” in a mall food court. For those who would rather hear the words than read them, check up the video below. The printed lyrics are below the video as well as part of Handel’s story.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
(Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
(Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
(Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
(Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah) Hallelujah
The Kingdom of this world Is become
The Kingdom of our Lord And of His Christ
And of His Christ And He shall reign forever and ever
And He shall reign forever and ever
(And He shall reign forever and ever)
And He shall reign forever and ever
(And He shall reign forever and ever)
And he shall reign forever and ever
(And He shall reign forever and ever)

King of Kings
(Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
And Lord of Lords
(Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
King of Kings
(Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
And Lord of Lords (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
King of Kings (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
And Lord of Lords King of Kings and Lord of Lords
And he shall reign forever and ever (And he shall reign)
And he shall reign forever and ever (And he shall reign)
King of Kings forever and ever
And Lord of Lords hallelujah hallelujah
And he shall reign forever, forever and ever
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
And he shall reign forever and ever
(And he shall reign forever and ever)
Forever and ever, forever and ever
(King of Kings and Lord of Lords)
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah Hallelujah

George Frederick Handel wrote the Halleluiah Chorus in 1741 as part of his work, The Messiah. It was the greatest work of Handel’s life.

That year and previous years had seen him have numerous musical failures. He was deeply in debt. Debtor’s prison was a real possibility for him. He tried to write but got nothing from it. He was depressed, scared, unwilling to eat and found home depressing but still wouldn’t leave home for some greener pastures. He had worked hard and had nothing to show for it.

In late 1741 Handel was given funding by a group of charities from Dublin, Ireland. They asked him to do something that should have lows. The money raised would help free those stuck in debtors’ prison. Handel would also receive his own commission for composing the work, which in turn helped him on his path to reversing his own misfortune.

Prior to beginning work on The Messiah Handel stayed in bed. He rarely left the bed and didn’t eat. He suddenly started seeing the words of the great hymn. He went to work only now he rarely slept and still wasn’t eating .

In the end, the work was 260 pages long and he completed working in just 24 days. The first performance was in Dublin Ireland some six months after the chorus’ completion.

Many different choirs, orchestras, choruses, and more have provided great renditions of the work for almost 300 years. You can find MANY YouTube videos of the work online. My personal favorite was done by the Silent Monks Chorus. Take a look.

The Messiah in general and the “Hallelujah Chorus” in particular is just one of the songs we can call “sounds of the season, even if it ended up here as the result of a careless accident.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Let’s Sing: O Come, O Come Emanuel


This is the second post in the blog series Let’s Sing. To find the other posted Carols of the season, see the index, https://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/

O come, O come, Emmanuel
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 Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel O come, O come, Emmanuel
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.

When I first started thinking about a series on hymns and carols, I knew “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” would be a song I would include and it would be early in the series. First, because it is an Advent hymn, it needs to be early in the series because it is the advent season. Further, I thought it is one of the few “Advent” hymns and I believed it was one hymn I already knew pretty much everything there was to know about this old song. Friends, I wrong!

I thought the song was rooted in Gregorian chants. It isn’t, though there are similarities. Gregorian chants have their roots in the 9th and 10th centuries. The lyrics of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (in Latin) come from the 8th century. The Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf, in his poem “The Christ” uses language that alludes to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Cynewulf wrote “The Christ” between 750-800 (Gant, p. 1). Latin translations into English came in the 19th century.

The tune, as we know it today, didn’t come into use until about the 15th century (Osbeck, Location 216). With obvious language exceptions and the tune being different, people in the 9th century would find the lyrics surprisingly familiar.

The original writer is unknown, probably a monk or priest who had a strong knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments. “…the words painted a rich illustration of the many biblical prophecies of Christ’s birth” (Collins, Location 1347). Once the completed, and the hymn became available it became popular for one week a year in churches and monasteries across Europe. The other 51 weeks of the year the hymn was largely ignored. During that one week during daily mass leading up to Christmas, a different verse would be sung.

Though not credited with the translation of the song in the United Methodist Hymnal (Laurence Hill Stookey and William Sloan Coffin), most of the credit for the worldwide popularity goes to John Mason Neale, a 19th century Anglican priest.

Neale received his education at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a brilliant man who would speak and write in more than 20 languages. He might have become someone great in perhaps another time or place but he frightened the powers who oversaw the Church of England during that era. Instead, they were afraid of him and instead of assigning him to a London Church, he was sent to the Madeira Islands off of the northwestern coast of Africa. Most of us would never have been heard from again but Neale refused to give up on God’s call for his life. Despite his meager salary, he established the Sisterhood of St. Margaret and from that order he began an orphanage, a school for girls, a house of refuge for prostitutes. And, that was only the beginning.

Neale also read everything he could get his hands on regarding Scripture and Scripture-based writing. It was during these studies he encountered the Latin chant, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Realizing the importance of the chant he translated it into English. He is still often credited with the translation, even in versions where there is great certainty he did not write (Collins, Location 1367).

I wanted to include Neale’s story because his is an example of remaining faithful to the call of God. When he became exiled to the opposite side of the world, it might have been easy to give up. It might have been easy to, at best, go through the motions. Neale did not give up and worked tirelessly to be faithful to God’s call on his life. I know I need that reminder from time to time. I feel certain I am not alone. God calls all of us to something. Are we faithful to God’s call?

Had Neale refused the assignment, had he just gone through the motions, what he accomplished might never have happened. And, one of the treasured songs of Advent might never be heard outside a lonely monastery.

So, for me, perhaps now when I hear, or when I sing, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” the words and haunting melody might remind me of John Mason Neale and his determination to live out God’s call. Perhaps that reminder will also help me to both remember and be faithful to God’s call too.

Be blessed.

In Search of 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.

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: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


This is the first post in the blog series Let’s Sing. To find the other posted Carols of the season, see the index, https://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart. Born Thy people to deliver,

Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne. By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Advent, a season of waiting. It isn’t a long season, as seasons go, but it is the season we wait for the birth of the Christ child, anew in our hearts. It is a season of about four weeks in length. The actual length depends on the day of the week we celebrate Christmas Day. This year it happens to be a Friday. There are always four Sundays during Advent but this year there are only three Fridays and three Saturdays.

For children, the season seems to drag on forever as they await two things. First, is the two week break they get from school. Second, and far more important for most kids, when school ends Christmas is almost here. And, Christmas means presents.

Once one is an adult the time isn’t so slow. In fact, time seems to run even faster. There is more to do than it seems we have time to accomplish.

And still, we wait.

Our waiting is nothing compared to the waiting of the Jews, back in the days of the author of this hymn, “Charles Wesley.” For Jews, the wait has been even longer than centuries. They have waited for the Messiah’s arrival for more than 4000 years. And, still they wait.

They wait in vane. They wait in vane because of our reason for celebrating when this season of waiting called Advent comes to an end.

For many of us, singing this hymn and a few others marks the beginning of the wait we call Advent. Even if we pay little attention to the calendar, if we attend worship, the shift in the music to songs like this one, “O Come, O Come Emanuel” and “Lift Up Your Head, Ye Mighty Gates,” signals the beginning of the annual, spiritual pilgrimage back to a stable and a manger.

Written around 1744, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” is just one the approximately 8000 hymns written by Charles Wesley. This hymn proved to be so popular that it was reprinted 20 times during before he passed away in 1788.

When Wesley wrote this hymn he found himself surrounded by poverty, particularly the squalor of orphaned British children. Wesley’s time was a time much like ours today. It was a time of weakness in the Church and the power of sin in the world. It was a time where the divisions between the upper class and everyone else was growing quickly. This was most greatly seen in the homeless orphans of 18th century England. They were all but ignored by the world. The hymn is Wesley’s petition for the return of Jesus.

The themes of setting people free from the sin that is present in all our lives. Come and release us, Wesley writes. Bring our rest, return our strength and consolation. Give us hope and joy. Come long expected Lord Jesus, come and deliver us.

The second verse demonstrates that the hymn is as much for us today as it was when Wesley originally wrote it. “Born to reign in us, brought to the royal thrown. By the power of the Holy Spirit, alone God rule in us and bring us to you, not for what we have done but through your grace.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sounds of the Season

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens;
 praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens; and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were
created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which
cannot be passed.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and women alike, old and young together!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;
    his glory is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful,  for the
people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 148:1-14, New Revised Standard Version)

I don’t think that, by this point in my writing of this blog, that it should be a surprise that I love music. The truth is, I do love music and I am a sucker for Christmas music.

When I first reported aboard ship in the Navy, I was assigned to the wardroom (that is where the officers eat their meals) for mess duty. Mess duty is something just about all enlisted sailors do fairly soon after reporting to their ship for duty. In my case I had been on the Mt. Whitney for less than two weeks when I was assigned to the wardroom for four and half months. It was right around December 1st, when I reported, when the ship returned from a European cruise. After a week of orientation it was on to mess duty. I finished about the end of March.

The ship had its own radio station (WLCC) but it generally only played when we were at sea. Around the ship there were gray boxes attached to the bulkhead that had a four-switch dial on it for the choice of “station.” There really was only station but in port, we carried four local stations. At sea there was the ships station that played a wide variety of music and three others that were just recording tapes of various other kinds of music.

We spent all of December and most of January before we went to sea. During December, channel “D” was Christmas music. When all my co-workers were out doing other things, I flipped the switch to “D” and it was all Christmas music. It would last for a bit and then someone would come in and flip the switch and we were once again it was some heavy rock and roll.

Music has always been a part of our tradition in the Judeo-Christian faith. Scripture reminds us in many places of that same line of thought. In the psalm above, the psalmist talks about praising God, the heavenly host, and so much more. Psalms is the hymnal of the ancient Jews. Quite frankly, I can’t fathom worship, at least not on a long term basis without music.

Christmas music as a genre probably doesn’t go back as far. Still, there is a very rich tradition in the beautiful music of the season.

The December challenge is all about Christmas music. I challenge you to listen, in some cases for some of you, it may be the first time you have heard the song. For others you are re-listening for who knows how many times. Take a moment and listen. You can find all these songs in places like YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music and more. Write down your memories. Write down how the songs to you. Let the music speak to others through you. I look forward to hearing your stories.

Feel free to post your stories as replies to this post. You can post them on my page, my author’s page, Perritte Memorial’s page, Spirit’s Breath, Stone Tablets, your own page or somewhere else where your stories of Christmas music might touch the lives of others.

The calendar above has all the songs for the month. I hope to hear some of your story this month.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved