Ten Hymns to Sing at Christmas
This list contains some that are sure to be your favorites. All are worth singing with a fresh awareness this Christmas. Perhaps there are one or two of which you are not familiar. May you be blessed by each of these great hymns.
1.O Come, All Ye Faithful – A most familiar call to worship and the reason for the Christmas celebration. “O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.” Quite effective as a processional or introduction to any Christmas service.
2.Good Christian Men Rejoice – This ancient hymn is from a Medieval Latin text, paired with a 14th-century German melody. For a most unexpected and worshipful effect, sing the melody in the form of a four-part round (like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”). Note: substitute “Friends” for “Men” in the title for more inclusive language, if desired.
3.The First Nowell – This old English carol and melody tells the entire Christmas story in its six stanzas. For emphasis, each stanza is punctuated with the familiar refrain, “Nowell, nowell, born is the King of Israel.” Note: “Nowell” is the English form of the French word, “Noel,” from the Latin “natus,” meaning “born.” Practically, the terms can also simply mean, “Christmas.”
Soli Deo Gloria
4.Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light – Another great Christmas hymn of German origin. The beautiful metaphor of Jesus as the light of the world from the Gospel of John is poetically stated in this 17th-century chorale. Adding to the beauty and delight of this theologically beautiful hymn and melody is the wonderful harmonization by J.S. Bach. As Bach always signed his works, “soli Deo Gloria” – to God alone, be the glory!
5.Hark, the Herald Angels Sing – A Christmas hymn by Charles Wesley with music by Felix Mendelssohn is bound to be effective. Not surprisingly, this hymn does not disappoint. The first words of the three stanzas form a succinct Christmas message of their own. “Hark, Christ, Hail.” In summary, the two lines of the refrain proclaim, “Hark, the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born king.”
6.Angels from the Realms of Glory – A glorious aspect of Christmas is the role of angels proclaiming, singing and heralding the news that Messiah is born. We can join the angels’ song, “Come and worship Christ, the new-born king.” And that is something to sing about!
7.Angels We have Heard on High – This Christmas hymn of probable French origin was arranged and set to music in the 20th century. Again, the subject is the song of the angels. The refrain, notably includes four bars of music on the word, “Gloria,” of the Latin, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” One does not need know Latin to understand and join in this angel chorus, “Glory to God in the highest.”
Intimate Christmas Prayer
8.Away in a Manger – In vivid contrast to the singing of angels, this hymn movingly describes the vulnerability of the baby Jesus. There is no more intimate Christmas prayer than that of the third stanza. “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 fit us for heaven to live with thee there.
9.Silent Night – It is hard to grasp that this great Christmas hymn will be 200 years old this Christmas (2018). That means that for 1800 years after the birth of Jesus, Christians could NOT sing this favorite hymn. The Christmas story is beautifully told, but the music; Oh! The music. Connecting us to our Savior, to each other, to saints past, present and future.
Watts, Handel, Mason
10.Joy to the World – Master 18th-century hymn writer Isaac Watts has beautifully and poetically stated the good news of Christmas. Paired with music by George Frideric Handel, arranged by Lowell Mason, this is truly a hymn for all seasons. (Lowell Mason is considered the "father" of music education in the United States.)
Did you know?
Handel is the composer of the masterwork "Messiah"
* George Frideric Handel photo source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Frideric_Handel
I hope this list may be meaningful to you as you contemplate the meaning of Christmas. Feel free to use each listing as an invitation to read the hymn in its entirety. Then, sing it!
Were there any hymns in this list with which you were not familiar?
Was this list of Christmas hymns helpful in your preparation for Christmas this year?