Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hark...a Bleak Midwinter

I am loving Christmas carols and poems this year. I always like Christmas carols-in December. But I am so NOT a poetry buff. Just say what you mean, okay? Poetry seems to take a lot of concentration to figure  out just what the poet is saying. But, as with a lot of things, I want my kids to have some poetic appreciation, so I am trying to pick up some myself. I am enjoying the many poems we picked for our Christmas program this year. They truly are beautiful. But, still, give me prose any day over a poem.
My all time favorite Christmas Carol is Hark the Herald Angels Sing. I know, the Bible never says they sang. Still...it is my favorite. The music, by Felix Mendelssohn, is full bodied and majestic. When I was less than 10, I sang this with my (then) four other sibs, for a Christmas program. I have loved it ever since. Charles Wesley wrote the carol, though not in the exact form that we sing today. George Whitefield helped to revise it, and is actually responsible for the couplet, "hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king." Charles had some old english inserted there. The carol was originally sung to a more somber tune, and then for a period of about 100 years, it was sung to the tune of Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Felix Mendelssohn wrote the tune it is known for, as a cantata commemorating Johannes Gutenberg's printing press. William Cummings adapted it for Hark the Herald. Hark the Herald is traditionally the recessional for the King's College, Cambridge's Christmas Eve service, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. (which, btw, is what we adapted for our church's Christmas program this year) This King's College Christmas Eve service has been happening since 1918, and has only missed one year. It went global in the 1930s on the BBC, and is the event to attend. You are almost guaranteed a seat if you are in line by 9:00 am Christmas Eve. The service doesn't start until after 3:00 pm. That's dedication. Anyway, back to our carol. It is also sung at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, for their Nine Lessons and Carols. They use a different tune though. It is Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, aka Thine Be the Glory Risen Conquering Son. Also very robust. I can't picture it, but I'm sure its great. My favorite line is..."born that men no more may die." If Jesus Christ hadn't become a man, He couldn't have died for our sins. God is immortal; He cannot die. Jesus Christ is the God-man. He was born to die. Amazing, awesome thought.
Really, this was supposed to be a short post. I don't think I know how to do short.=) But I will leave you with some lovely words to a Christina Rossetti carol, In the Bleak Midwinter. The music is hauntingly beautiful. You should look it up and take a listen.http://youtu.be/K-9yB6t8Vl4

 In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, 
 earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; 
 snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, 
 in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

 Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; 
 heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. 
 In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed 
 the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. 

 Angels and archangels may have gathered there, 
 cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; 
 but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, 
 worshiped the beloved with a kiss. 

 What can I give him, poor as I am? 
 If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; 
 if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; 
 yet what I can I give him:  give my heart.

On this, the shortest day of the year...the START of winter...sigh