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Multi-Instrumental

#22: Were You There?

Were You ThereThe melodically captivating song “Were You There on That Christmas Night?” was written by Natalie Sleeth in 1976. Sleeth was an accomplished composer who received an Academic major in music and a BA in music theory at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She married a Professor of Homiletics, Reverend Ronald E. Sleeth, and was a member of the Highland Park United Methodist Church, and even wrote some hymns which appear today in the United Methodist hymnal.

Lyrics

Were you there? Were you there
On that Christmas night?
When the world was filled with a holy light?
Were you there to behold as the wonder foretold
Came to Earth?

Did you see? Did you see?
How they hailed him king?
With their gifts so rare that they chose to bring?
Did you see how they bowed as they praised him aloud
At his birth?

Did you hear how the choirs of angels sang
At the glory of the sight?
Did you hear how the bells of Heaven rang
All through the night?

Did you know, did you know
It was God’s own son?
The salvation of the world begun?
Did you know it was love that was sent from above
To the Earth?

Did you know it was love that was sent from above
To the Earth?

#21: O Come All Ye Faithful

O Come All Ye FaithfulThe text to “O Come All Ye Faithful” was originally written in Latin (“Adeste Fideles”) and is attributed to John Francis Wade, an 18th-century hymnist. It was first published in a collection known as “Cantus Diversi” in 1751.

The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages many times, though the English “O Come All Ye Faithful” translation by Frederick Oakeley in 1841 is particularly widespread. In 1841 Rev. Frederick Oakley worked on the familiar English translation which replaced the older Latin lyrics.

Lyrics

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

#16: Mary’s Lullaby

There are many songs by the name “Mary’s Lullaby,” but this particular one comes from the Children’s Primary songbook, used by the LDS Church. It  is based on an old German folk tune, and is a simple sweet lullaby to the Christ child. The words were written by Jan Underwood Pinborough in 1989, with the music arranged by Darwin Wolford.

Lyrics

Lullaby, lullaby, my little one.
Lullaby, my child so dear.
Thy precious life has just begun;
Thy mother holds thee near.
While Joseph watches through the night,
A star reflects thy radiant light.

Thy gentle head shall wear a crown,
For thy Father is the King.
Thy tender hands, so tiny now,
Have blessings great to bring.
Let all creation join my song,
For peace and love this night are born.

Lullaby, lullaby, my little one.
Lullaby, my child so dear.

Descant
While Joseph watches through the night,
A star reflects thy light.

Let all creation join my song,
For peace and love are born.

#15: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

adoration-of-the-shepherds-gerard-van-honthorst-1590-1656The words to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” are a translation of the Catholic Latin text “Veni, veni, Emmanuel” by John Mason Neale in the mid-19th century. Their origins are very old indeed, and may date as far back as the 12th century. They were of such importance in medieval days that in monasteries a separate stanza, to be sung from December 16 through December 23, was assigned to each of the most pious monks. In the 1800s, a musical setting that would accommodate the stanzas and the refrain “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel” was fashioned out of some plainsong sequences. (There was no refrain in the original Latin.) And, since plainsong has no measures and no specified rhythmic scheme, the quality of this hymn is always flowing and free.

The text is based on the biblical prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 that states that God will give Israel a sign that will be called Immanuel (literally, “God with us”). Matthew 1:23 states fulfillment of this prophecy in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Lyrics

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

#5: O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Little Town of BethlehemPhillips Brooks, one of 19th-century America’s best-loved preachers, was ministering to a Philadelphia church when he wrote his now-famous verses at Christmastime in 1868, three years after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was inspired by the nighttime view of Bethlehem from the Hills of Palestine, and the memory was, he said, “still singing in my soul.” His organist, Lewis Redner, who was professionally a highly successful real-estate broker and on Sundays a leader in the Sunday school, set Brooks’ words to music for the church’s children’s choir, and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was subsequently taken up by the rest of the world.

Lyrics

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
And Peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born to us today.
We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

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