Text: Hans Adolph Brorson (1694-1764) Tune: Norwegian folk tune or Pre-reformation German tune
1. In this our happy Christmastide
The joyful bells are ringing;
To praise be all our powers applied,
God’s grace and mercy singing;
In Him by whom the world was made,
Now in the lowly manger laid,
Rejoice we in the spirit;
Thy praise O Savior, we will sound
Unto the earth’s remotest bound,
That all the world shall hear it.
2. A little Son, the virgin-born,
True God from everlasting
To rescue us who were forlorn,
His lot with us is casting:
It moved His tender heart to see
This world of sin and misery
In condemnation lying;
Therefore He came from realms above
Down to our earth, drawn by His love,
To sooth our grief and sighing.
3. Our thanks we offer Him today,
Although a poor oblation,
Hallelujah! Our joyful lay
Shall sound through every nation;
Now in our camp the Ark we see,
Therefore we shout the victory
With joyful hearts unfearing;
We sing of peace, the peace profound,
That hell shall tremble at the sound,
Our Christmas anthem hearing.
4. That God has laid His anger by,
He by His gift hath shown us;
He gives His Son for us to die,
In Him He now doth own us;
These joyful tidings tell abroad,
That Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
From sin doth us deliver;
Who then should not be glad today
When Christ is born, the sinners’ stay,
Who is of grace the giver?
5. As darkest night must fade and die
Before the sun’s appearing,
So fades my grief away, when I
Think on these tidings cheering,
That God from all eternity
Hath loved the world, and hath on me
Bestowed His grace and favor;
I’ll ne’er forget the angels’ strain:
Peace—peace on earth, good will to men,
To you is born a Savior!
6. Although my joyful Christmas lay
Is mingled with my sighing,
The cross shall never take away
My joy and praise undying;
For when the heart is most opprest,
The harp of joy is tuned the best,
The better strains are ringing,
The cross itself, at Jesus’ will,
Must aid my soul, that I may still
In grief His praise be singing.
7. Hallelujah! Our strife is o’er,
Who, then, should pine in sadness?
Who now should grieve in anguish sore
In these our days of gladness?
Thou Church of God, O sing this morn:
To us is Christ the Savior born,
O joy that none can sever!
Hallelujah! Sing thou my heart,
Now Christ is mine, I can depart
To be with Him forever.
Tr. Carl Døving, 1908
Christmas carols and hymns are a fundamental feature of our Christmas celebration. We have services with carols, we go caroling, and we sing them around the Christmas tree in our homes. Because we sing them so much, we know them by heart, if only the first stanza. Repeating songs over and over again is not a tiresome thing; it is a wholesome practice where we learn the words by heart. Memory is at the root of all our spiritual nurture: repetition salts things away in the memory to be recalled when one needs them for spiritual nourishment.
David Preus, late ALC Bishop, once suggested to me that he would rather a congregation knew thirty hymns by heart, than small pieces of five hundred. I took that to a group of Lutherans and suggested they choose thirty hymns they thought their congregations should know by heart. There were few surprises on their lists, although one could tell, maybe, from which tradition the congregation had emerged. Holy, Holy, Holy, How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, Beautiful Savior, Children of the Heavenly Father, Day by Day, Soon and Very Soon, etc. They were then to assure the congregation sang at least one of those songs every Sunday for a year so they might be memorized.
I never found out how that worked, but was glad to share the idea. When I choose hymns for a service I always check to see if there is “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” as we say about a bride’s dress.
Always feature the old, but frequently try something new. I think borrowed would take hymns from the global church that are easy to sing; blue could be interpreted to be something jazzy or contemporary. While I would err on the side of mostly old and familiar, a dash of the new and different will season the service and maybe give the congregation a new favorite.
New hymns like "Eagle’s Wings" or "Borning Cry" quickly became old favorites.
There are some treasures like this hymn, a great hymn by Hans Adolph Brorson, that has lost its place in American Lutheran hymnal. Too bad. Christmas, with all its revels, can easily become disconnected from the Christ child. As the second Danish pastor in Tønder, Denmark, Brorson decided to write a small volume of Christmas hymns to put Christ back into Christmas. They were his first efforts. Of the nine or so Christmas hymns in the collection, four are musts for Christmas caroling here and in the Nordic countries: "Thy Little Ones Dear Lord are We/Her kommer dine arme small;" "My Heart is Filled with Gladness/Mit Hjerte altid vanker," "Now found is the fairest of Roses/Den yndigste Rose er funden" and this one.
Brorson wanted to make sure that Christmas hymns told the whole story of Christ, the crib, the cross and grave. Modern editors have often taken out those references to the dark side of Christmas as being mood spoilers, making the hymn sentimental and sweet. The nativity was both sweet and rough. In stanza six Brorson connects that hard birth in the stable to the cross. “The cross itself, at Jesus’ will,/Must aid my soul, that I may still/In grief His praise be singing.”
It is ironic that when we make Christmas all sentimental, we take the Gospel out of it. And maybe increase the depression of people who are forlorn. They can’t get with the forced happiness of others. Hymns such as these put their finger directly on that sore and heal it with the salt of the Gospel.
I commend this to you for a rich and bountiful Christmas because this gift in the manger came to get at the hurts and wounds you may feel at this time. He faced them himself during his life. He comes even when our hearts are "sighing.” Let him touch those wounds with his grace so the healing and joy may begin! Merry Christmas!
This appeared in 1732 Brorson’s first volume of hymns, A Treasury of Faith/Troens Rare Klenody. It quickly became one of the more popular Christmas hymns in Denmark and Norway and has remained so.The cantors in Norway sang his texts to their folk tunes, sinking them deep into the hearts of people. The tune Brorson suggested which was used in America was a pre-reformation tune, but the Norwegian folk tune seems to have overtaken it.
Bo Holten/Danish version and tune
Oslo Solist Kor/Grete Pederson
Oslo Domkor, a Norwegian folktune based on the German tune
Anna Ekborg - viola d'amore Jerker Hans-Ers - five string violin lovely folk
Grex Voxalis, Trond Kverno’s arrangement of the folk tune
Ola Asdahl Rokkones, sax jazz version
Sofia Vokal Ensemble/put together with another hymn, but beautiful!
Sankt Jakobs Ungdoms Kor/Stockholm