#10: Coventry Carol

Coventry CarolThe “Coventry Carol” is a Christmas carol dating from the 16th Century. The carol was performed in Coventry as part of a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. The play depicts the Christmas story from chapter two in the Gospel of Matthew. The carol refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod orders all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed. The lyrics of this haunting carol represent a mother’s lament for her doomed child. It is the only carol that has survived from this play. Our knowledge of the lyrics is in considerable doubt, as the only surviving manuscript copy was burnt in 1875, and only two poor quality transcriptions remain from the early nineteenth century.

Lyrics

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

#9: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was introduced in 1944 by Judy Garland in the musical Meet Me in St. Louis, “a love of a film” as one critic put it. Frank Sinatra later recorded a version with modified lyrics, which has become more common than the original. The song was credited to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, although during a December 21, 2006 NPR interview, Martin said that Blane had encouraged him to write the song but had not had anything more to do with writing it. In 2007, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) ranked “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” the third most-performed Christmas song written by ASCAP members of the past five years.

Lyrics

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
Our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yuletide gay,
From now on,
Our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself
A merry little Christmas now.

#7: Christmas Shoes

“The Christmas Shoes” is based on a story passed around on the Internet. Eventually it was forwarded to a member of the Christian vocal group NewSong in 1996. They worked on the song for four years and eventually released it as a bonus track in 2000. It reached #31 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart that year, and #42 on the Hot 100 chart. A year later, country music group 3 of Hearts released their own version, which peaked at #37. In 2002 Donna VanLiere took the story and the theme of the song and produced a novelization which was published in 2002 by St. Martin’s Press. The book became a made-for-TV movie released in December 2002.

Lyrics

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin’ to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing ’round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn’t believe what I heard him say

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, “Son, there’s not enough here”
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I’ve got to buy her these Christmas shoes

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama’s gonna look so great

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

#6: We Three Kings of Orient Are

We Three Kings of Orient AreIn 1857, John Henry Hopkins, Jr., assembled an elaborate Christmas pageant. He wrote both words and music for the General Theological Seminary in New York City, where he was an instructor in church music. One of the selections dealt with the Wise Men who came from the East, and for this part of the pageant, Hopkins created one of America’s most beloved carols. The three kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, brought gold, traditionally the metal of royalty; frankincense, an aromatic bark whose smoke was thought to reach the gates of heaven; and myrrh, an unguent used in the preparation of bodies for burial. The gifts symbolically signified Jesus’ kingship, His oneness with God, and His eventual death on the cross.

Lyrics

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising all men raising,
Worship Him, God on high.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Myrrh is mine: Its bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Sounds through the earth and skies.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

#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.