Every year I blog on a Christmas Carol, taking the time to point out where I think the carol really captures the message of Christmas, and sometimes where it falls short. This year, you’re going to get two for the price of one. Growing up, my parents had several Christmas albums which were played repeatedly throughout the holidays at the request of us kids. These albums were played over and over again so that we had the versions on these albums memorized. A few that I remember are Jim Reeves, Johnny Mathis, Burl Ives, and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Tennessee Ernie Ford and another one that I can’t remember both had a version of the song Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella. I never understood some of the lyrics, probably because he sung one of the verses in French. But the melody is ingrained into my brain. I never knew that this carol had so much history behind it. All I knew is that Tennessee Ernie Ford sung a version of it.
Apparently this song was sung all across France as many would gather for a Christmas Eve midnight mass. Some sources say this song was intended for dance music for French nobility. But if the music was written by Nicolas Saboly, who was a priest who wrote Christmas carols, perhaps the intent was to be a Christmas carol after all. No matter the intent, the melody is beautiful. Whoever wrote it was a musical genius understanding how the gentle pause in between the “hush, hush” causes contemplation over the Son of God sleeping in the manger.
The song itself has a neat message. It is designed for someone to keep quiet as the baby Jesus may be sleeping. To think of Jesus as an adult walking around healing, teaching, telling stories, scolding, and having dinner with folks is one thing. But to remember the weakness of human flesh with the baby in the manger is to remember the scriptures which tell of how Christ left heaven to become flesh. For the Son of God to be laying there helpless, reliant on others to keep quiet that He might sleep peacefully is a reminder of all He went through. Other than that, there is not much in the song to tell us of the incarnation, his deity, or the message of salvation.
But, enter the second song that I would like to introduce you to. Ken Bible has written a song to the tune of the same music. Imagine my surprise when someone chose this song from our hymnal and I found the words being sung by me even though I did not know the song. The melody from my childhood ingrained in my brain came to me via the memories of Tennessee Ernie Ford. Somehow, the words that Ken Bible has written fit the melody as well as the original words which function as a lullaby. Here are the words to the song which I have been singing in my heart:
Love has come–a light in the darkness!
Love explodes in the Bethlehem skies.
See, all heaven has come to proclaim it.
Hear how their song of joy arises:
Love! Love! Born unto you, a Savior!
Love! Love! Glory to God on high!
Love is born! Come share in the wonder.
Love is God now asleep in the hay.
See the glow in the eyes of His mother.
What is the name her heart is saying?
Love! Love! Love is the name she whispers.
Love! Love! Jesus, Immanuel.
Love has come–He never will leave us!
Love is life everlasting and free.
Love is Jesus within and among us.
Love is the peace our hearts are seeking.
Love! Love! Love is the gift of Christmas.
Love! Love! Praise to You, God on high!
Why do I enjoy singing these newly composed lyrics? Because the message of Christmas is fully bursting with them. To think that this was Love Himself lying in the manger, this is the message of Christmas. Why did the angels appear to the shepherds? Love. The heavens could not contain the message of God’s love to mankind as it burst forth to the shepherds that otherwise quiet night. Love explodes in the Bethlehem skies. The love of God brought to us in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, that’s the gift of Christmas. I just love it. Here I am singing it as I’m writing.
Here is a link to a resource with a devotional, a few words by Ken Bible, and a recording of someone singing the song to the ever familiar tune that I grew up hearing.
May these newer lyrics become an old classic one day. May this song become one of those that our children grow up singing and remember fondly when they come into adulthood. May the LOVE of which they sing dwell in our hearts richly this Christmas. God bless you all this Christmas season.
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
-The Orange Mailman