(Brooke’s generosity Blog)
December 22, 2019
Today in worship we follow the ancient tradition of ‘Lessons and Carols.’ Scripture (lessons) and music (carols) belong together.
The very first Christmas carols are lost in antiquity. There are indications that they were simple variations on the words: “Jesus is born, Jesus is Lord.” The earliest carols we can find are from 375 AD when the date of Christmas was set at December 25th.
One of the differences between ‘carols’ and ‘hymns’ is that carols were often used as dance music. That makes sense doesn’t it? Christmas carols make us happy and when we are happy, we feel like dancing.
There is also a difference between a Christmas song (think Rudolph) and Christmas carols. All carols have a connection to Jesus.
Canada has given the world the “Huron Carol” (“Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”), Canada’s oldest Christmas carol. Jean de Brébeuf wrote the words, probably in 1642, while a missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. This took place near present day Midland Ontario in the traditional lands of the Huron and Wendat people.
The carol’s original Huron title is “Jesous Ahatonhia” (“Jesus, he is born”).
In the Huron Carol, the baby Jesus is pictured as surrounded by hunters instead of shepherds. Why? Because the Huron people had never even seen a sheep. All sheep were imported from Europe or Africa. The Hurons could not know about shepherds.
All carols feature Jesus. The only difference between an ‘Advent Carol’ and a ‘Christmas Carol’ is the Advent Carol anticipates the birth of Jesus, and the Christmas Carol celebrates the birth of Jesus. It is easy to get them confused. I do it all the time.
I wondered about the oldest carol in our Presbyterian Book of Praise. It took a bit of digging, but I believe it is number 163 “Of Eternal Love Begotten.” This is a variation on “Of the Father’s Heart (or Love) Begotten.” This is reliably documented as written by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (what a great name!) sometime between 390 and 413 A.D. in ancient Spain.
As we sing Christmas carols, we show that we are on a journey of faith. We embrace:
- Hope, Jesus finds us even when we are in the deepest valley of the shadow.
- Love, Jesus is love, he lived love, he gave love, he gave himself for love, of you, for you and with you. Once again we embrace the love of Jesus.
- Joy, Jesus lifts our spirits and allows us to live fuller richer lives. Truly we find Joy in Jesus.
- Peace, Jesus, who was called the Prince of Peace, shows a way for us to live in justice for all providing “peace that passes all understanding.”
The run up to Christmas can be stressful. It is hard sometimes to keep cheerful when we want to be grumpy.
May the carols and lessons of Christmas live and breathe in your life this year. May the Hope, Love, Joy and Peace of Jesus be with you. Today and always.