Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dec 25 Go Tell it on the Mountain

Dec 25 Go Tell it on the Mountain

Refrain: Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born.

The shepherds feared and trembled,
When low above the earth,
Rang out the angels chorus
That hailed our Savior's bi--rth.

While shepherds kept their watching
o’er silent flocks by night,
Behold, throughout the heavens
There shone a holy li--ght

And lo! When they had heard it,
They all bowed down to pray,
Then travelled on together,
To where the Baby la--y.

Down in a lowly manger
The humble Christ was born
And God sent us salvation
That blessed Christmas mo--rn.

"Go Tell It on the Mountain" is an African-American spiritual that dates back to at least 1865. It has been sung and recorded by many gospel and secular performers. It is considered a Christmas carol because its lyrics celebrate the Nativity: "Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born."

The song became a Civil Rights anthem in the 1960s, having been adapted and rewritten as "Tell It on the Mountain". The lyrics referred specifically to the Israelite exodus with the line "Let my people go," but also referred to the Civil Rights struggle of the early '60s.

Craft: music, mountain, singing angel

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dec 24 Away in a Manger

Dec 24 Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle 'til morning is nigh.

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 take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.

"Away in a Manger" was first published by James R. Murray in an 1885 Lutheran Sunday School book. The author of the first two stanzas is unknown, but it is certain that the third stanza was added in 1904 by New Yorker Dr. John McFarland.

Some attribute the song to Martin Luther. This confusion exists because Murray published it with the subtitle "Luther's Cradle Hymn (Composed by Martin Luther for his children and still sung by German mothers to their little ones)."

Craft: baby in a manger
Baby Jesus origami (Christmas Origami book)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dec 23 What Child is This?

Dec 23 What Child is This

What Child is this, who laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?

Refrain: This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear for sinners here,
The silent Word is pleading.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh;
Come, peasant king, to own Him.
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

"What Child Is This?" is a popular Christmas carol that was written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix. At the age of twenty-nine, he was sickened by a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bed for several months. He went into a deep depression during this time, but it was also a time when he wrote many hymns, including ‘What Child is This?” which was later set to the traditional English melody of "Greensleeves". Other hymns that Dix wrote include “As with Gladness Men of Old,” “To you, O Lord, Our Hearts We Raise,” and “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus.”

“Greensleeves" is a traditional English folk tune which appears in references as far back as 1580 but cannot be definitively dated. The tune is found in several late 16th century and early 17th century sources, as well as various manuscripts preserved in the Cambridge University libraries. In Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, written around 1602, the character Mistress Ford refers twice without any explanation to the tune of "Greensleeves," and Falstaff later exclaims: “Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of 'Greensleeves'! “ These allusions suggest that the song was already well known at that time. During this time period, green was a color associated with love and romance. In Chaucer’s writing, green was the color of lightness in love. This is echoed in “Greensleeves is my delight” and elsewhere in the song lyrics.

Craft: Mary, manger, baby
Origami Manger (Christmas origami book)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dec 22 The First Noel

Dec 22 The First Noel

The first 'Noel!' the angels 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.

Refrain: Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!
Born is the King of Israel!

For all to see there was 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 did they know assuredly
Within that house the King did lie;
One entered in then for to see,
And found the Babe in poverty.

Then entered in those wise men three,
Full rev'rently upon their knee,
And offered there, in his presence,
Both gold and myrrh, and frankincense.

Between an ox-stall and an ass
This Child there truly borned was;
For want of clothing they did him lay
All in the manger, among the hay.

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

If we in our time shall do well
We shall be free from death and hell,
For God hath prepared for us all
A resting-place in general.

The origin of the word “noel,” and even its exact meaning, has been lost to antiquity. Some scholars say the word is French, signifying “a shout of joy” at Jesus’ birth. Others go further back to Medieval Latin and say that it derives from the word “natalis” which means “birth,” and therefore has to do with the birth of Jesus. Another Latin word, “novella,” meaning “news,” is also a possible meaning of the word, conveying the idea that there were shouts of joy over news of Jesus’ birth.

The unknown poet who wrote “The First Nowell” conveys the angels’ message, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10), a reminder that “now all is well,” or “nowell.” The carol has been popular for nearly three centuries.

Craft: shepherds, sheep, star, wise men, Noel word art Christmas>several stars, also Animals/Birds>Sheep

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dec 21 Deck the Halls

Dec 21 Deck the Halls

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Toll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yule before us,
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Follow me in merry measure,
While I tell of Yule tide treasure,

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Sing we joyous, all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather,

"Deck the Halls" is a traditional Yuletide and New Years' carol. The English words generally sung today are American in origin and date from the 19th century, but the original lyrics are Welsh.

The tune is that of an old Welsh air, first found in a musical manuscript by the blind Welsh harpist John Parry Ddall. The composition is still popular as a dance tune in Wales. Poet John Ceiriog Hughes wrote the first published lyrics for the piece in Welsh, titling it "Nos Galan" ("New Year's Eve"). Folk Singers later added a middle verse to the original two verses. In the eighteenth century the tune spread widely, with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart using it in a piano and violin composition.

Craft: festive decorations, paper chain Christmas

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dec 20 Once in Royal David's City

Dec 20 Once in Royal David’s City

Once in royal David's city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior Holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly Maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander was a hymn-writer and poetess who began writing verse in her childhood. By her early 20s, she was already known as a hymn writer and her compositions were soon included in Church of Ireland hymnbooks. “All Things Bright and Beautiful” is one of the hymns she wrote. She donated money from her first publications to help build a school for the deaf and dumb, and was involved in other charitable work during her lifetime.

Her book, Hymns for Little Children was published in 1848. Included in that hymnbook was “Once in Royal David’s City,” which was discovered a year later by organist and composer Henry John Gauntlett and set to music. Dr. Gauntlett wrote over 1000 hymn tunes, and edited several hymn books as well.

Since 1919, the King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England, has begun its Christmas Eve service, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, with "Once in Royal David's City" as the processional. The first verse is sung by a boy chorister of the Choir of King's Chapel as a solo. The second verse is sung by the choir, and the congregation joins in the third verse. Except for the first verse, the hymn is accompanied by the organ. This service is broadcast live on the BBC World Service, and it is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide who tune in to this service annually.

Craft: choirboy, manger

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dec 19 Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

Dec 19 Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep,
the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

How silently, oh how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

Episcopal priest Phillips Brooks visited the actual town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve in 1865. He travelled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on horseback, later writing in his diary this interesting account: “Before dark we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it, in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds.” Later in the evening, he attended the traditional services in an ancient basilica said to have been built by the Emperor Constantine early in the fourth century, The Church of the Nativity. The service, which lasted from 10 pm to 3 am, made an unforgettable impression on him.

Three years later, as he prepared for Christmas services at his church in Philadelphia, he drew on his Holy Land trip in writing the poem for “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The song was written especially for the children of his parish. He gave the poem to church organist Lewis Redner and asked him to set it to music. Redner dallied and delayed until it was almost too late for the song to be used that year, telling Brooks that he was “not inspired” yet with music. The night before the children’s choir was to sing the carol in services, Redner finally was able to hear a tune, which he rapidly jotted down so he could get some sleep. In the morning, he harmonized the melody and it was able to be used for that year’s Christmas services.

Craft: skyline silhouette