The First Christmas Carol: Sing it Now!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:8-14
Nativity Scene | Christmas Market, Metz, France | December 2021

There is a time and season for everything. A time to mourn and a time to dance. So says the Preacher (cf. Ecclesiastes 3). Now is the time to sing! It’s Christmas Eve. Thousands upon thousands will join the heavenly host in singing praise to God this night. From the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica to the Christmas in a Barn at LifeBridge Church (a yearly tradition since its founding) carols and choirs, bells, organs, guitars, violins, horns, and voices will raise a song of praise to God. Glory to God!

My favorite among them all is the sublimely beautiful and inspiring ancient (4th or 5th century) Christmas hymn: Of the Father’s Love Begotten. This ancient song expresses, better than I could ever do so, the majesty, mystery, and blessing of Jesus’ birth. I cannot possibly stress enough the depths to which it reaches my soul. I hope its message touches your heart as well.

1 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.

2 Oh, that birth forever blessed
when the virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race,
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face
evermore and evermore.

3 This is he whom seers and sages
sang of old with one accord,
whom the voices of the prophets
promised in their faithful word.
Now he shines, the long-expected;
let creation praise its Lord
evermore and evermore.

4 Let the heights of heav’n adore him,
angel hosts his praises sing,
pow’rs, dominions bow before him
and extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
ev’ry voice in concert ring
evermore and evermore.

5 Christ, to thee, with God the Father,
and, O Holy Ghost, to thee
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
and unending praises be,
honor, glory, and dominion
and eternal victory
evermore and evermore.

Those are the verses of which I am most familiar. But there are others as well.

At His Word the worlds were framèd;

He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men,
thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens,
with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring,
evermore and evermore!

———————————–

He is found in human fashion,
death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children
doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
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!

Christmas Blessings!

Here is a unique version of this Christmas hymn. Another more traditional version is below this one.

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