Music and the celebration of Christmas have been inextricably linked since the earliest days of the church. Latin hymnody and chants offering a liturgical entry point into the joyous mysteries of the incarnation began appearing in the 4th century. The middle-ages introduced many of the carols and tunes we’re familiar with yet today. The origins of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” date to the 12th century and “The First Noel” to the 13th. So many beloved carols were written in the 16th century, it’s mind-blowing to consider that these tunes have been shared by voices for 500 years now.
What are your favorites? Which do you long to sing or hum along with as each Christmas season comes around? Do you like the exuberant hymns like “Joy to the World” or do you prefer the more contemplative like “What Child is This?” I’m particularly drawn to great performances of “O Holy Night.” I think this is because it’s so far beyond my ability to sing that the song only exists as a gift given by others for me to enjoy.
In video linked above, the St. Olaf Choir performed a John Ferguson arrangement of “Night of Silence/Silent Night” by Daniel Kantor (and Frans Gruber of course) in 2013. It was recorded with the Nidarosdomens Jentekor in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, as part of the Emmy-award winning “St. Olaf Christmas in Norway” television special. I find it a particularly moving performance and presented in a magical setting, an apt devotion for this day.
This Sunday, our various music ministries will be combining their efforts to shape our worship as we take our concluding steps towards the coming Christmas. This service of Lessons & Carols take full advantage of the rich Christmas musical tradition, setting the stage for the true gift of this season, God’s promised coming. Join me in gratitude today for the composers, arrangers, musicians, vocalists, and technicians whose efforts give glory to this season and the mystery we celebrate.
May God’s peace come to you this day. -Pastor Peter
Let us pray…
“All my heart again rejoices
as I hear, far and near,
sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
till the air ev’rywhere
now with joy is ringing.”
All My Heart Again Rejoices, ELW 273, Text: Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1827-1878, alt.