Do you ever get a little tired of hearing the same old Christmas carols every year? Do you wrinkle your nose at the new arrangements that are trying to be original, but don’t manage to be very good? Do you struggle to pay attention to the words when you know them all by heart?
I do. I am too easily bored by the same songs. I’m a snob when it comes to music. And I quickly go on autopilot and zone out when I’m singing the same lyrics I’ve sung for years.
But the songs are still true and good and beautiful, even if familiarity has dulled my appreciation for them. And they still faithfully deliver divine truths every Christmas, if I am willing to put some effort into taking in their words.
The downside of familiar carols is that they can become boring, but the benefit is that they are etched in our memories, easy to recall. The same Christmas carols will still be there, in my memory and in the church year, whether I soak in them deeply or not. The truth they convey will still be available for me to meditate on again.
But it can also be helpful to sing less familiar songs that reveal different aspects of the Incarnation to us. For no amount of carols can begin to capture the wild, stunning, marvelous, merciful truth of God become man. Christ’s coming is inexhaustible in meaning, endless in the fodder it provides for hymns of praise.
So, as we near the end of the 12 days of Christmas, here are some of my favorite obscure carols. May we all join together with songs both old and new, familiar and unfamiliar, bringing our best offerings of music and poetry to celebrate the coming of Christ. O come, let us adore Him!
From the Father forth He came
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell–
High the song of triumph swell!
Thou, the Father’s only Son,
Hast o’er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?
Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin o’ercloud this light;
Ever be our faith thus bright.
… Rejoice on earth, ye saints below
For Christ is coming, is coming soon.
E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come
And night shall be no more.
They need no light, nor lamp, nor sun
For Christ will be their all.
… O Love, born today, come and find us
Search the darkness, light the way, come and guide us home
Oh, the sunrise seems so far away
Find us, Child of Bethlehem
Find us here, the Son of Man
One winter’s night begins eternal summer morn
If only you are born.
The gods we trusted and became will find no solace here.
Beside his creatures, low and lame, the Son of God appears.
A thousand years of “progress” past, a million hearts beguiled,
Now Love alone will reign and last, within one little child.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
The King shall come when morning dawns
And light triumphant breaks,
When beauty gilds the eastern hills
And life to joy awakes…
Oh, brighter than the rising morn
When Christ, victorious, rose
And left the lonesome place of death
Despite the rage of foes.
Oh, brighter than that glorious morn
Shall dawn upon our race
The day when Christ in splendor comes
And we shall see his face.
The King shall come when morning dawns
And light and beauty brings.
Hail, Christ the Lord! Your people pray:
Come quickly, King of kings.
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!
O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!
O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!