Hello, we are very happy to see everyone here tonight as we celebrate this Christmas season. Our opening carol (the Westminster Carol) is a very popular tune and the Latin words are very familiar to us – Gloria in excelsis Deo. As far back as 130 A.D., churches were encouraged to end all their Christmas songs with this phrase, which is drawn from the message the angels gave to the shepherds the very night Christ was born – “Glory to God in the highest.” We want to do the same thing tonight. We are not looking for applause, or men’s praise, we want all the Glory of Christmas to go to God, who on that night thousands of years ago, sent to mankind the greatest gift, the free gift of his Son, through whom the world can have peace in their hearts, joy in their soul, and eternal life in heaven.
The program for the night will begin with some of our smaller instrumental and vocal groups. We will then sing some carols ourselves while the choirs and orchestra come back to the platform and we’ll end the concert with some larger groups joining together for our final selections. To give the orchestra a chance to find a place in the auditorium during the first half of the program, I would like us to stand and sing this carol, Angels We Have Heard on High, it’s #89 in the hymnal. Let’s sing stanzas 1, 3, and 4.
Angels We Have Heard on High
Two of our next three selections are very familiar songs. The men’s quartet will sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and our brass ensemble will play “Silent Night.” Between them, our college ladies ensemble will sing a new Christmas arrangement titled, “Shining Star.” The song reminds us of the star that led the wise men to the place of our Lord’s birth. It also reminds us of the message the angels brought to the shepherds that night. That message – peace on earth, goodwill toward men has been referred to as good news, or Christmas tidings. The word “noel” means tidings. Throughout many Christmas carols we use the word noel, which is the message of Christmas that was delivered by the angels the first Christmas night.
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
One of our ladies trios is going to sing the next selection. Although the song “Ivory Palaces” is not normally regarded as a Christmas carol, its persistent theme – that Christ left the glories of heaven to live on earth – should remind us of the Love of God that sent His son to earth to redeem mankind, and should fill us with love for God and each other.
Their song will be followed by a two piano, organ arrangement of one of the few Christmas, Negro spirituals, “Go, Tell it on the Mountain.” This song reminds us of the Savior’s birth and urges us to do as the shepherds did that first Christmas night – spread the word on the mountain, over the hills, – everywhere, that Jesus, the Christ is born!
Go, Tell It on the Mountain Medley
One of the unfathomable concepts of Christmas, one of the truths that makes this season so special is the idea that at Christmas the transcendent, eternal God was born of a virgin, took flesh upon himself and lived among mankind. We learn this from Matthew 1:21-23 which says,
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
Our ladies chorus will sing a song entitled “He’s Emmanuel” which answers questions we would have as we view the birth and life of God on earth. When they finish our woodwind/string ensemble will present “Good Christian Men Rejoice.” Each verse of this song reminds all Christian men to rejoice with our heart, soul, and voice. The individual verses tell us of Christ’s birth, and then of His purpose. “He hath ope’d the heavenly door, and man is blessed for evermore…Now ye need not fear the grave, Jesus Christ was born to save, Calls to one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall, Christ was born to save.
Good Christian Men Rejoice
For many years Martin Luther was named as the writer of the simple Christmas lullaby, Away in a Manger. Although the song was probably written in the mid-1800’s, the story about Luther’s authorship grew over time. Since Luther was a German, during the First World War, the words to this song were sung to another tune, possibly as a reaction to anything German. So now we recognize both tunes to “Away in a Manger.”
Before we hear an arrangement of “O Holy Night” that incorporates the simple lullaby, our mixed college ensemble will sing “Martin Luther’s Christmas Carol.” This beautiful song encourages us to praise the Lord and sing “with joyful tongue, the sweetest, dearest, Christmas song…Glory to God in the highest…the Christ is born!”
Martin Luther’s Christmas Carol
O Holy Night – Away in a Manger
Hopefully, you have enjoyed the music so far, let’s stand and sing a few carols ourselves as our church choir, college choir, and high school girls choir come up to prepare for the next piece.
Away in a Manger
Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
“O Holy Night” is one of the most popular of all Christmas songs. Even though a poet who was not a regular churchgoer wrote the words, and a Jew who did not believe in Christ as the Son of God wrote the music, its message in text and music is so powerful that it has overcome opposition from organized religion. Because of its background, the Catholic Church in France banned its use in its services, but people recognized its value. It was also the first song ever to be heard over the airwaves of radio. On Christmas Eve, in 1906, as radio operators were expecting to hear dots and dashes, they heard the voice of Reginald Fessenden, a former chemist for Thomas Edison, reciting the Christmas story from Luke chapter two. When he finished, he picked up his violin and played the song “O Holy Night” – the first music to be heard over the radio.
O Holy Night
The First Noel
If you’ll turn to number 88, you’ll find a carol with a title taken from the first three words of the song. The verses may be unfamiliar but the chorus is easy and again reminds us to praise the Lord for the gift of His son at Christmas. (read stanzas 1, 5, then chorus)
In a Cave
Camp Kirkland has put together a stirring arrangement of Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne, Away in a Manger, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and The Birthday of a King he called “The Glory of Christmas Medley”
After the orchestra plays this medley, the choir will sing the fourth number from Handel’s “Messiah,” – And the Glory of the Lord. The text is taken right from Isaiah 40:5 which says, “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
The Glory of Christmas Medley
And the Glory of the Lord
The spirit of Christmas is easily heard in the music of the song “Sing We Now of Christmas.” Throughout the song we’re reminded of the tidings, that the angels brought on the first Christmas night and encouraged to join with all creation in the joy of the season.
Sing We Now of Christmas
The next selection is one of the most familiar of carols. It invites us to come, worship and adore the Savior, Christ the Lord. Hopefully, you have been able to do that through the music presented to night. I encourage you to come to church on Sunday also. This is Christmas Sunday and our children will be putting on a program at the beginning of the morning service titled, “The True Night Before Christmas.” The program will begin at 10:30 a.m. Now we’ll hear a piano/organ duet play “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
O Come All Ye Faithful
Our final selection, titled Canticle of Joy, or song of joy blends the song “How Great Our Joy” with the popular Christmas song “Joy to the World.” Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World with the meaning for the text taken from Psalm 98:4-9.
4 Let all the earth unto the Lord
send forth a joyful noise;
Lift up your voice aloud to him,
sing praises, and rejoice.
5 With harp, with harp, and voice of psalms,
unto Jehovah sing:
6 With trumpets, cornets, gladly sound
before the Lord the King.
7 Let seas and all their fulness roar;
the world, and dwellers there;
8 Let floods clap hands, and let the hills
together joy declare
9 Before the Lord; because he comes,
to judge the earth comes he:
He’ll judge the world with righteousness,
his folk with equity.
About 100 years later Lowell Mason took his text and put it to music he had written which was inspired by songs from Handel’s Messiah. The new tune breathed the Christmas spirit. And even though the text does come from any of the gospel accounts of Christ’s birth, the truth, that the Lord is Come, has inspired many for many years.
Canticle of Joy