Posted in christmas hymns, theology

Christmas Carols are on, including The Coventry Carol

By Elizabeth Prata

Being home now on Thanksgiving Break all week has put me into the holiday mood. I started listening to Christmas carols this morning. At The Special Store (vintage estate resale store) yesterday I’d seen an Anne Murray CD called Christmas, issued in 2008. It was damaged unfortunately, but the songs on it were all the ones I liked, including The Coventry Carol. I was disappointed it was too damaged to buy but I am glad the song list reminded me of The Coventry Carol.

The Coventry Carol is a dirge, a lament for the dead. Wikipedia explains this medieval song’s origin

The “Coventry Carol” is an English Christmas carol dating from the 16th century. The carol was traditionally performed in Coventry in England as part of a mystery 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 itself refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed, and takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children.

Why, one might ask, would I be excited to have a Christmas CD that included among the joyous songs about the savior’s coming, a dirge about dead children?

Well, as stated above, the song is part of a traditional play that enacts the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2. So it’s biblical. The massacre of the innocents was a terrible display of man’s cravenness and a part of the bloodshed that Christ’s coming initiated and has not yet abated.

Christ’s coming was incredible, joyous, and an opportunity for salvation of mankind in general and salvation effectually for all those who are called. But Christ came to die. His intent and point was death, as the sacrificial lamb. (Matthew 20:28). His coming as the babe often overshadows that fact.

The bloodshed began almost immediately, with Herod slaughtering the innocent children, just so he could retain temporary and pitiful ower in his part of the backwater kingdom of Israel. This caused Jesus’s family to flee their home and live as exiles for many years in Egypt. And the sorrows continued. The Christmas story is wonderful, but it has its parts that are bloody, depraved, and sad. I first wrote about The Coventry Carol in 2016, here in the essay The Saddest Christmas Carol Ever, which explains more.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
Thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This pore yongling for whom we do singe
By by, lully, lullay?
O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay”?
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Chargid he hath this day
His men of might in his owne sight
All yonge children to slay,—
Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.
That wo is me, pore child, for thee,
And ever morne and may
For thi parting nether say nor singe,
By by, lully, lullay.
That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay.”

Posted in christmas hymns, eternity, salvation

Favorite Christmas Hymns: O Come All Ye Faithful

We all have our favorite religious Christmas hymns. I mean the ones about the true meaning of Christmas and not the ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ kind.

I’ve always loved O Come All Ye Faithful. It moves me, and the words just seem to lift my spirit. Here is the first verse.

O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

When it would come on the radio, I’d sing with feeling and fervor. The song just gave me a good feeling and I would always perk up when that seasonal song came on.

Now for the funny part: I felt this before I was saved.

I wonder now, post-salvation, who I thought I was singing about, back then. Why the good feelings of joy and peace when singing it? I was a depraved enemy of God, apart from Him and unreconciled. Strange.

Here is the second verse.

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.

How was I singing about the Lord? Why were they adoring Him so much? I didn’t know, but I sang it with feeling. Normally in everyday life if I came across someone who was talking about the Lord I’d become angry and shut down the conversation. I mocked the notion of a virgin birth. In everyday life I’d reject every aspect of Jesus and the whole Gospel, every element of it. Especially the part about me being a sinner.

Yet every 12th month, Christmas would come around and I’d sing “O come let us adore Him” with the best of them.

I always thought that strange.

After a person is saved, if they look back over the landscape of their lives, they can see little markers of salvation future. Bread crumbs in the dark evil forest showing the way. I remember being fascinated when a long-lost aunt told me about the rapture when I was ten years old. I didn’t see her again much but the one time I stayed there she took advantage and told me. I remember bursting into tears when reading “Footprints in the sand” a sappy poem about Jesus carrying a person during their times of trouble. I wondered, even through my tears, why I’d been moved so much when I didn’t even believe in Jesus.

Romans 1:18-32 describes the fact that all humans have knowledge of God, no matter when they lived and no matter where they lived. Romans 1:19-20 explains,

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Then the verses go on to say what happens. Though His eternal attributes can plainly be seen in in creation, they deliberately suppress this truth (Romans 1:18) and they choose not to honor Him (Romans 1:21). The rest of the verses show what happens to a person the longer they deliberately suppress the truth.

I am an example of salvation by this method. Though I was raised in an atheist home, I traveled a lot and plainly saw the complexity and beauty of the earth, the precision of the tides, the movement of the planets and the change of seasons. It was all so orderly, eventually I decided there must be a God. It seemed pretty clear.

Salvation does not come until one repents and believed the Gospel, but the key here is that I did not deliberately suppress the truth, I saw plainly that through creation God existed. Also, I felt deeply that there must be an eternity (Ecc 3:11) and since there is an eternity, someone must run it. The door was kept open in my mind, I never suppressed nor rejected, and at the right time the Spirit worked on my soul and then I claimed the name of Jesus and was saved.

Though I don’t like to write about myself, I share this to offer any person reading this…hope. Don’t give up! I spent years in the wilderness, yet the eternity set in every person’s heart, in my heart, flickered weakly. The conscience, the creation, the Spirit, all working on me until the moment of salvation. Your brother, sister, friend, mother, child may also be feeling these perplexing spiritual feelings and not know why. By God’s grace, someday, they will.