The history of Christmas carols and hymns dates back to the earliest and gracious of all Christmas music – the songs that were sung by the angels over the town of Bethlehem.
Through the centuries many other musical renditions have come down to us through those whose hearts were filled with love, joy and praise to our Father in heaven at this season of the year.
These songs of praise vary in style. Their cheerfulness, simplicity and sincerity have kept them alive for many generations.
Carols vs. hymns. Carols are songs with righteous inspirations that are simple, pleasant, popular and sometimes modern. A typical carol gives voice to the common emotions of lively and happy folks in verse with a musical rhythm.
A hymn is a rendition praising God. History does not record when many of the hymns of praise had their beginning. 0 come Emmanuel is an early hymn. It is based on a series of Antiphons which were introduced sometime in the 800s. Each Antiphon speaks to the Savior by one of the titles given to Him in Scripture, i.e. Emmanuel, Dayspring and Key of David.
Francis of Assisi quoted a very thoughtful statement that all should adhere to, “For what are the servants of God if not his minstrels and messengers who ought to stir and incite the hearts (the temple of God) to spiritual joy.”
Examples. During the era of the Reformation, Martin Luther gave to the world some of its greatest hymns, including From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.
Of music Luther stated, “I give music the highest and most honorable place and everyone knows how David and all the saints put their divine thoughts into verse, rhyme and song.”
Every century has contributed to the wonderful world of Christmas carols, however none is more simple, more sincere and more widely recognized and admired than the 19th century carol, Silent Night.
In early times, folks in rural areas were living quite close to God’s handiwork, the natural world. These peasants composed carols about the trees, birds, flowers and animals that were part of their environment. It was therefore natural that they should associate the beauties and phenomena in nature with the birth of the Christ Child.
A French carol tells us that a “rush of wings” from the woods follows the “Noel Star” straight to Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth.
Upon hearing one or all of the hymns and carols of renown, a quote of Paul relates to us “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”
Moravian influence. No church, in comparison to its numbers, has ever produced as many hymns as the Moravian. For two centuries, we have been singing their hymns. Most of their hymns are prayers to Christ. And many of them are expressions of joy and gratitude for His sacrificial service.
In them they portray His suffering for sinners. His shed blood is the central theme of their songs and practically all their hymns are comprised by them and of their personal experiences of salvation and blessing.
Charles Wesley wrote 6,000 hymns and all were published. The Moravians of the Early Church went everywhere preaching the Word and singing their hymns, as witnesses of the Word and Christ.