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