This year there are two Sundays in the Christmas season. Assuming that you will continue to sing Christmas carols well known to your congregation, here are a few suggestions for some Christmas hymns that might not get much play but that are worthy of use and can be sung well by congregations. Please be mindful when introducing this or any new hymn to do some teaching about the hymn and why singing it is a good idea.
FROM HEAVEN ABOVE TO EARTH I COME (80)
I usually associate this hymn with Lutherans. Both text and tune were written by Martin Luther. The hymn, written in 1534, “is a simple and effective hymn that Luther modeled on an earlier secular folk song associated with a riddle dance that dates from the fourteenth century.” [The Hymnal Companion, Volume 3a, p. 150] The original text contained fifteen stanzas and served as a nativity drama probably written for Luther’s own children.
LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS (84)
The text of this simple hymn was written by Christina Georgina Rossetti. A few alterations were made from the original poem. The hymn is “both compact in structure and, at the same time, able to convey the enthusiasm and trust that might be heard in a conversation among good friends contemplating a great wonder.” [The Hymnal Companion, Volume 3a, p. 163] The tune is by David Evans a Welsh composer.
O SAVIOR OF OUR FALLEN RACE (86)
The text of this hymn is presented with two tunes in The Hymnal 1982 – Christe, Redemptor Omnium and Gonfalon Royal. The text is from an early Latin office hymn and in Christe, Redemptor Omnium it is matched with “which it has always been associated. “ While the text sounds much like Ambrose, no one is sure about the author. Gonfalon Royal was written by Percy Carter Buck for the Latin text Vexilla Regis prodeunt. [The Hymnal Companion, Volume 3a, p. 166].
ON THIS DAY (92)
This anonymous hymn is one of my favorites and can be sung with gusto by most congregations. I would certainly do a play through of the hymn and not just launch into the introduction. Personent Hodie is a fun macho tune and is worthy of more use.
UNTO US A BOY IS BORN (98)
This hymn is sung often at the King’s College service of nine lessons and carols. The omitted fifth stanza reads: “Omega and Alpha he! Let the organ thunder, While the choir with peals of glee Doth rend the air asunder.” Wouldn’t most choirs love to sing this! [The Hymnal Companion, Volume 3a, p.190]
THE SNOW LAY ON THE GROUND (110)
Many of us sang this lovely carol when in elementary school. It may be the first Latin I ever sang! “The use of Latin lines in vernacular carols goes back to the Middle Ages.” [The Hymnal Companion, Volume 3a, p.226]