A Hymn for Christmas Day

Why doth the sun re-orient take
A wider range, his limits break?
Lo! Christ is born, and o’er earth’s night
Shineth from more to more the light!

Too swiftly did the radiant day
Her brief course run and pass away:
She scarce her kindly torch had fired
Ere slowly fading it expired.

Now let the sky more brightly beam,
The earth take up the joyous theme:
The orb a broadening pathway gains
And with its erstwhile splendour reigns.

Sweet babe, of chastity the flower,
A virgin’s blest mysterious dower!
Rise in Thy twofold nature’s might:
Rise, God and man to reunite!

Though by the Father’s will above
Thou wert begot, the Son of Love,
Yet in His bosom Thou didst dwell,
Of Wisdom the eternal Well;
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Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Most hymnbooks that I’ve seen only include stanzas 1, 6 and 9 of this classic carol, but there are many other excellent verses that should be highlighted during Advent and Christmas. Here are my favorite four to sing during this time of year.

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

The Law Commands and Makes Us Know

I had never heard of this Isaac Watts hymn until yesterday, but it’s a wonderful example of the law/gospel distinction.

1. The Law commands and makes us know
What duties to our God we owe;
But ’tis the Gospel must reveal
Where lies our strength to do his will.

2. The Law discovers guilt and sin
And shows how vile our hearts have been;
The Gospel only can express
Forgiving love and cleansing grace.

3. What curses doth the Law denounce
Against the man who fails but once!
But in the Gospel Christ appears,
Pardoning the guilt of numerous years.

4. My soul, no more attempt to draw
Thy life and comfort from the Law
Fly to the hope the Gospel gives;
The man that trusts the promise lives.

It can be sung to the Old Hundredth tune, among many others.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is one of my favorite Advent hymns. Although it could also be used as an Easter hymn, and was originally used for the Eucharist, I believe it fits perfectly in with Advent.

The lyrics you are used to are a bit different, but I like the above video.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Words: Liturgy of Saint James (fifth century);
trans. Gerald Moultrie (1829-1885), 1864

I Lift My Soul to God

I lift my soul to God,
My trust is in His Name:
Let not my foes that seek my blood
Still triumph in my shame.

Sin, and the powers of hell,
Persuade me to despair:
Lord, make me know Thy covenant well,
That I may ’scape the snare.

From the first dawning light
Till the dark evening rise,
For Thy salvation, Lord, I wait
With ever longing eyes.

Remember all Thy grace,
And lead me in Thy truth;
Forgive the sins of riper days,
And follies of my youth.

The Lord is just and kind,
The meek shall learn His ways,
And every humble sinner find
The methods of His grace.

For His own goodness’ sake
He saves my soul from shame:
He pardons, though my guilt be great,
Through my Redeemer’s Name.

by Isaac Watts

Immanuel, We Sing Thy Praise

Immanuel, we sing Thy praise;
Thou Prince of Life, Thou Fount of Grace,
With all Thy saints, Thee, Lord, we sing;
Praise, honor, thanks, to Thee we bring.

E’er since the world began to be,
How many a heart hath longed for Thee!
And Thou, O long expected guest,
Hast come at last to make us blest!

Now art Thou here: we know Thee now:
In lowly manger liest Thou:
A Child, yet makest all things great;
Poor, yet the earth Thy robe of state.

Now fearlessly I come to Thee:
From sin and grief O set me free!
Turn wrath away, dread death destroy,
And turn my sorrow into joy.

Thou art my Head, my Lord divine:
I am Thy member, wholly Thine;
And by Thy Spirit’s gracious power
Will seek to serve Thee evermore.

by Paul Gerhardt (1653); translated into English by Ludolph E. Schlicht

Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast

Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast;
Let every soul be Jesus’ guest.
Ye need not one be left behind,
For God hath bid all humankind.

Sent by my Lord, on you I call;
The invitation is to all.
Come, all the world! Come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.

Come, all ye souls by sin oppressed,
Ye restless wanderers after rest;
Ye poor, and maimed, and sick, and blind,
In Christ a hearty welcome find.

Come, and partake the Gospel feast;
Be saved from sin; in Jesus rest;
O taste the goodness of your God,
And eat His flesh, and drink His blood!

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Crown Him With Many Crowns

Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

Crown Him the virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem.

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of peace, whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease, and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end, and round His piercèd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.

Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

Verses 1, 4, 5, 6 & 9: Mat­thew Bridg­es, The Pass­ion of Je­sus, 1852; verses 2 & 3: Godfrey Thring, Hymns and Sacred Lyrics, 1874.

This is My Father's World

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;

He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:

Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.

I open my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”

This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,

The Beloved One, His Only Son,

Came—a pledge of deathless love.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?

The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.

This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,

For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.

No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.

In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.

This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam

Whate’er my lot, it matters not,

My heart is still at home.

by Maltbie D. Babcock, who supposedly wrote this while hiking in the hills around Lake Ontario. The thing I like about this song is that it is one of the few hymns we have about creation. It also flies in the face of what much of the world is doing to our Father’s creation.