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Christmas 2013

#52: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

jesus-hug“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in the early 1700s, as part of the final movement of the Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben cantata (“Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life”).

The original German lyrics differ quite a bit from the traditional English lyrics, and strongly focus on a more personal connection with Christ. A literal translation is as follows:

Well for me that I have Jesus,
O how strong I hold to Him
That He might refresh my heart
When so sick and sad am I.
Jesus have I, He who loves me,
He who takes me as His own!
Ah, therefore I don’t leave Jesus,
Lest I should break my heart.

The original lyrics were written in 1661 by Mar­tin Ja­nus. The vocal melody was actually written by Jo­hann Schop around 1664, but didn’t become popular until 1723, when Bach added it to the original 1716 cantata.

Lyrics

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.

#51: Good King Wenceslas

WenceslasThe Wenceslas of the song “Good King Wenceslas” wasn’t a king, but actually the Duke of Bohemia who lived in the 10th century. He was reputable as a good, kind, honest, and morally upright man. The carol is about Wenceslas and his page going out giving alms to a poor peasant in bitter cold weather on the Feast of Stephen, the second day of Christmas (December 26). Wenceslas was perhaps too good, because he was betrayed and murdered by his envious younger brother in 935. He immediately achieved sainthood status, and within a few decades, four biographies of him were in circulation.

The song is based on a 13th century springtime carol sung in Latin, “Tempus adest floridum,” or “It is time for flowering.” In 1853, John Mason Neale selected Wenceslas as the subject for a children’s song to illustrate Christian generosity.

Recorded live @ McKay-Dee Hospital Lobby, December 22, 2013
Equipment used: Blue Snowball Mic

Lyrics

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel.
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me.
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went,
Forth they went together,
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page.
Tread thou in them boldly.
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted.
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

#50: When Christmas Comes to Town

The 2004 film The Polar Express is based on the 1985 children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. It is a story of a young boy who no longer believes in Christmas. A train going to the North Pole appears outside his house, and he boards it at the request of the conductor. He experiences an adventure with other children, and ultimately meets Santa Claus and becomes a true believer. The song “When Christmas Comes to Town” is sung by a boy and a girl on the Polar Express. The boy is disheartened because he hasn’t experienced Christmas, while the girl reassures him with depictions of the joyous parts of the holiday. The song for The Polar Express soundtrack was sung by Matthew Hall and Meagan Moore.

Recorded live @ McKay-Dee Hospital Lobby, December 22, 2013
Equipment used: Blue Snowball Mic

Lyrics

I’m wishing on a star
And trying to believe,
That even though it’s far
He’ll find me Christmas Eve.

I guess that Santa’s busy
‘Cause he’s never come around.
I think of him
When Christmas comes to town.

The best time of the year,
When everyone comes home.
With all this Christmas cheer
It’s hard to be alone.

Putting up the Christmas tree
With friends who come around.
It’s so much fun
When Christmas comes to town.

Presents for the children
Wrapped in red and green.
All the things I’ve heard about
But never really seen.
No one will be sleeping on
The night of Christmas Eve,
Hoping Santa’s on his way.

When Santa’s sleigh bells ring,
I listen all around.
The herald angels sing,
I never hear a sound.

When all the dreams of children
Once lost will all be found,
That’s all I want
When Christmas comes to town.
That’s all I want
When Christmas comes to town.

#49: Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

“Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” originates from the Polish carol “W zlobie lezy” (“He Lies in the Cradle”). In 1908, the carol was published in a book of Polish carols. 13 years later, Edith Margaret Reed wrote English-language lyrics for the song, and came up with the title “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.” The carol reflects on the baby Jesus lying in the manger, the animals watching nearby, and the rejoicing shepherds on the hillside hearing the story from the angels.

Lyrics

Infant holy,
Infant lowly,
For His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing,
Little knowing
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging
Angels singing,
Nowells ringing,
Tidings bringing,
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.

Flocks were sleeping,
Shepherds keeping
Vigil till the morning new,;
Saw the glory,
Heard the story,
Tidings of a Gospel true.
Thus rejoicing,
Free from sorrow,
Praises voicing,
Greet the morrow,
Christ the Babe was born for you!

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Feel free to email me at christmas@justinreeve.com.