Christmas Hymns of Faith

With my day to post on Christmas Eve, I just couldn’t write about a favorite vintage book. December 24 is as much of a holy day on the Christian calendar as is Christmas Day. In fact, the two days together create a most holy time rivaled only by Holy Week leading up to Easter.


What better way to acknowledge this sacred time than to look at a few centuries-old hymns celebrating the birth of our Lord? I love at least a dozen, having sung them since I knew how to carry a tune. I’ve picked three.


“O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I fell in love with this melody in a minor key the first time I was allowed to attend the midnight Christmas Eve service. Within the lyrics, I recognized how the people ached for Messiah’s arrival. They mourned in lonely exile. They begged Him to end all envy, strife, and quarrels. I felt their pain, and at the same time, I was filled with joy. For Messiah came! He answered their prayers! And I reap the benefits of His arrival, and subsequent sacrifice, on earth.

credit to: dewthis.blogspot.com

“Angels We Have Heard on High.” Every verse is filled with the story of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth: they appeared to the shepherds, the shepherds were jubilant, and they were invited to see the newborn Messiah for themselves. The final stanza invites all of us to find this joy for ourselves.

But it was the “Glorias” that hooked me. What a thrill to take a deep breath and then belt out “GLO—————-RIA!” My little girl worship soared to the heavens, and I knew Jesus was pleased. Kind of like what the Little Drummer Boy felt–but I’m not going to choose his song today.

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“Joy to the World!” This hymn is so familiar, I tend to take it for granted, but when I consider the words, oh my! The words are why we sing it so often! Be joyful! The Lord has come. Even the rocks cry out! He’s broken the curse! We have the best ruler the world has ever known or will ever know! And He loves us beyond what we can imagine. Lots of exclamation points. I don’t know how to skimp on exclamation points with such a hymn! One is even included in the title.
It’s certainly worth your time to go over the words in these hymns with your children. Each is an individual sermon.
Which hymn would you choose to share with your child in detail? And why?
Have a blessed Christmas!

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I’m Religious

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Little Gretchen in her Sunday best. Circa 1979.

There, I said it. I unashamedly call myself a Christian, an adherent to the Christian religion. I love the word religion. It ties me to something a faith, a tradition, a person, Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. And I love religious things – dressing up, wearing a cross necklace or charm that shows my faith, hymns, prayer, churches, stained glass, creeds, liturgy.

Growing up, church was a sacred event. It was a time to wear your Sunday best, sit quietly, and have a reverent attitude. We attended a mainline Protestant denomination church until I was in eighth grade. Typically my family attended with my grandparents at their small white church that looked like a postcard. My other grandparents belonged to a different church in the same denomination, and I sometimes went to church and Sunday school with them. Usually when Dad had to work on a Sunday. We sang hymns from the late 1960s red hymnal and occasionally pulled out the older black hymnal. Each service had order. There was “Gloria Patri”, responsive reading, silent prayer, a pastoral prayer, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, “The Doxology”, scripture reading, and a sermon. For some, that would have been stifling. But for me it was beautiful. I was somewhere holy.

Since then, I’ve attended several evangelical churches over the years and various moves. All of them similar. Singing. Prayer. Sermon. While I still dress up, sing, pray, and enjoy the sermon, it’s harder for me to truly worship.  Something is missing. It’s the formality. Singing hymns all the way through. Reciting creeds or scripture. Saying The Lord’s Prayer. “Gloria Patri” and “The Doxology”. I know there are a lot of people who don’t get much out of responsive reading. But I do. It’s how I worship. Like saying the Pledge of Allegiance demonstrates my patriotism, saying The Apostle’s Creed affirms my faith.

There have been several articles about Millennials in the church spanning the spectrum of faith. One article on one end mentioned Millennials were drawn to the beautiful old churches, liturgy, and reverent hymns. At the other end, an article spoke about how Millennials aren’t drawn in by “hip” rock-and-roll churches. These are my interpretation, but I think I captured the intent. Maybe peppy praise choruses and full bands aren’t always what young people want. Some may want to step somewhere separate from everyday.

In an effort not to place emphasis on repeating words that may be taken as a “sounding gong” or considering religious jewelry and ornate stained glass as idols, the modern evangelical church has swung the pendulum to its opposite arc. We now have loud music, Starbucks, and blue jeans in church. I’m not saying this is wrong, but there’s a place for hymns, Lifesavers, and dresses. Recite the Apostle’s creed or Nicene creed and set the keyboard to “organ” and sing all four verses of a beloved hymn. As for pantyhose they can remain a relic of the twentieth century. And when there’s 6 inches of snow on the ground, I’m wearing pants and knee-high boots.

My favorite part of worship is responsive reading. What is yours?