Category Archives: Articles on Hymnody

Twelfth Hymn of Christmas: Behold, the Great Creator

Twelfth Hymn of Christmas: Behold, the Great Creator

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

“Behold, the Great Creator,” written by Thomas Pestel in 1539, juxtaposes the mystery of the Creator of all who made himself “a house of clay.” The tune, THIS ENDRIS NYGHT, is a beautiful English carol from the 15th century. Behold, the great Creator makes Himself a house of clay, a robe of virgin flesh He takes… Continue Reading

Eleventh Hymn of Christmas: Christians, Awake!

Eleventh Hymn of Christmas: Christians, Awake!

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

A lesser known Christmas hymn, “Christians, Awake!” retells the Luke 2 story in a powerful and vivid way. Medical doctor John Byrom wrote this text in 1749 simply as a devotional poem. The tune, YORKSHIRE, by John Wainwright, perfectly captures the exuberance of the text and the subject matter. Christians, awake! Salute the happy morn… Continue Reading

Tenth Hymn of Christmas: See Amid the Winter’s Snow

Tenth Hymn of Christmas: See Amid the Winter’s Snow

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Like Rosetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Edward Caswall metaphorically connects the cold of winter to the condition of the earth at Jesus’s birth. He wrote “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” in 1858, a retelling of Luke 2 with some powerfully imagery like “Lo, within a manger lies He who built the starry skies.” See, amid… Continue Reading

Ninth Hymn of Christmas: All My Heart This Night Rejoices

Ninth Hymn of Christmas: All My Heart This Night Rejoices

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Written by German pastor Johann Gerhardt in 1653 and translated into English in 1858 by Catherine Winkworth, “All My Heart This Night Rejoices” explores the great value of the incarnation. Most poignantly, “He becomes the Lamb that taken sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.” All my heart this night rejoices as I hear… Continue Reading

Eighth Hymn of Christmas: In the Bleak Midwinter

Eighth Hymn of Christmas: In the Bleak Midwinter

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

In “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Christina Rosetti poetically pictures the cold, dark, hard condition of the earth when Jesus came to save us. This recognition should cause us to give ourselves–all that we have–to him. The tune, CRANHAM, comes from English composer Gustav Host in 1906. In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth… Continue Reading

Seventh Hymn of Christmas: From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

Seventh Hymn of Christmas: From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” was one of Martin Luther’s first hymns, penned in 1535 and translated into English by Catherine Winkworth in 1855. Luther modeled the first stanza after a well-known German folksong, and wrote the text originally for his family’s Christmas devotions. He originally used the folk tune with the text,… Continue Reading

Sixth Hymn of Christmas: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Sixth Hymn of Christmas: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Staying with the theme of German carols, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” comes from the fifteenth century and was translated by a couple different people into English in 1894, 1875, and 1914. The hymn develops Isaiah’s prophesy concerning the “rose” from the “stem of Jesse ” (Isa. 11:1; 35:1-2). The tune is a traditional German… Continue Reading

Fifth Hymn of Christmas: How Bright Appears the Morning Star

Fifth Hymn of Christmas: How Bright Appears the Morning Star

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Known as the “Queen of the Chorales,” this Lutheran hymn by Philpp Nicolai was written in 1599. Unusual for this time period, Nicolai also composed the tune, WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET. As is often true of German chorales, “How Bright Appears the Morning Star” masterfully combined rich incarnation theology with devotional warmth, as the singer cries, “Jesus,… Continue Reading

Fourth Hymn of Christmas: Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

Fourth Hymn of Christmas: Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

The German Lutheran tradition has a rich heritage of Christmas hymns. “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” comes from Lutheran pastor, Johann Rist in 1641. He originally wrote a 12-stanza poem on the incarnation that was later paraphrased and adapted as a hymn. It recalls the brilliant light at then heralding of the angels and… Continue Reading

Third Hymn of Christmas: Love Came Down at Christmas

Third Hymn of Christmas: Love Came Down at Christmas

This entry is part 3 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Christina Rosetti has written some of the most beautiful Christmas carols, and “Love Came Down at Christmas” is no exception. Penned in 1855, this hymn centers on the theme of love–Christ is love personified, and our response to his coming should be love toward him and others. Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely,… Continue Reading

Second Hymn of Christmas: Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Second Hymn of Christmas: Of the Father’s Love Begotten

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Almost as ancient as “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” this hymn is probably more well-known. “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” was written in the fourth century by Marcus Aurelius Prudentius, a poet from northern Spain, and translated into English in 1851 by John Mason Neale as part of the Oxford Movement. This hymn is… Continue Reading

First Hymn of Christmas: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

First Hymn of Christmas: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” is one of the oldest, if not the oldest Christian hymn still in common use today. Adapted from the fourth-century Liturgy of St. James, which is still used by Eastern Orthodox churches today, this hymn text was translated into English in 1864 by Gerald Moutrie. The text is part of the… Continue Reading

Twelve Hymns of Christmas

Twelve Hymns of Christmas

Tomorrow begins the Twelve Days of Christmas, and so in honor of this festive season, I will be highlighting one Christmas hymn each of the twelve days. I’ll focus on some lesser-known hymns, complete with a bit of background, the full text, a link to a free download, and a video. Merry Christmas! Continue Reading

Advent Hymns

Advent Hymns

Advent is upon us! This is a wonderful time of year to both remember the prophecies regarding Christ’s first coming and anticipate his coming again. If all of the prophecies concerning his first coming were fulfilled with complete literalness, we can have confidence that those prophecies yet to be fulfilled will also come to pass… Continue Reading

Pre-order Hymns to the Living God Pew Edition

Pre-order Hymns to the Living God Pew Edition

The Church Pew Edition of Hymns to the Living God is printing soon, and we are now taking pre-orders. All pre-orders must be placed by January 1, 2018. The Church Pew Edition will be a professional sewn hard case with slate gray cloth cover and gold foil stamped title on cover and spine. Our printer prints all of… Continue Reading

Repentance Hymns

Repentance Hymns

This weekend I am speaking the the National Center for Family Integrated Churches Conference in Asheville, NC. The theme of the conference is “Repentance: The Reformation Continues.” I have been asked to speak on the topic, “Repentance Through Singing in Corporate Worship.” I am going to preach from Psalm 130, one of the seven “Penitential… Continue Reading

Reformation Hymns

Reformation Hymns

Reformation Sunday is coming up on October 29, and this year is particularly special since we are celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. In our church, each year on Reformation Sunday we sing Reformation hymns, that is, hymns that in some way connect to the Reformers and the movement they… Continue Reading

A Better Way to Sing “Be Thou My Vision”

A Better Way to Sing “Be Thou My Vision”

The old Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision” is a favorite of many, but the way most Americans sing it weakens the poetic parallelism of the original. The beloved poem was originally written in Old Irish in the 8th century. Notice the repetition of “Rop” in the original verses below: Rop tú mo baile, a… Continue Reading

A new hymn pairing

A new hymn pairing

As we move closer to publishing our print hymnal, Hymns to the Living God, I want to continue to highlight some of the new and unique selections that you will both find in the hymnal and can download for free even now. One of the unique hymns about which I am most pleased is not… Continue Reading

New Hymn by David Oestreich and Josh Bauder

New Hymn by David Oestreich and Josh Bauder

In January I mentioned the sudden passing of our friend, David Oestreich. David had been a supporter and occasional contributor here on the blog, and his tragic death due to complications from pneumonia was a shock to us all. David was quite an accomplished poet. He had several of his poems published in various collections,… Continue Reading