Five Words For Christmas

I have done a lot of griping in this blog over the past few months, and I’ve offered many critiques. I will do a lot more of that in the days ahead; it is my wont, and it needs to be done. The critic is the precursor of the reformer.

Even today, Christmas Eve 2011, I was tempted to write a blog post lamenting how lonely Christmas can be, even for someone who has spent his entire adult life in service to the church. But I will have my wife, my daughter, and my beautiful (he prefers “cool”) four-year-old grandson with me for Christmas, so even though I am separated from others with whom I would like to spend this special day, I am still blessed indeed.

Christmas is a time for celebration, for hope, for gratitude… not for lament, regret, or complaint. And so, for the heart of this post, I am simply recording the five words that were going through my head when I awoke this morning… the refrain from the old German hymn which I have reproduced below.

I remember the first time I heard this hymn. It was the fall of 1967, and I was a freshman in Bible college. I was out of money, discouraged, and homesick. For our chapel service one morning, the song leader had selected this as the congregational hymn. Since I didn’t know it, I wasn’t particularly moved as the first chords of the introduction rang out from the organ. But by the time we were half way through the first stanza, I was caught up in such a spirit of worship and thanksgiving that I could hardly sing. And by the time the hymn was over, tears were streaming down my face.

So, you can expect to read a lot more gripes and critiques in the pages of this blog in the coming months. But please remember, behind and beneath it all will be my unwavering commitment to Jesus as Lord and my confident declaration, contained in the hymn’s refrain, and offered here as my contribution to the blogosphere on this Christmas Eve. “May Jesus Christ be praised!”

  1. When morning gilds the skies,
    My heart awaking cries:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Alike at work and prayer
    To Jesus I repair:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  1. To Thee, my God above,
    I cry with glowing love,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    The fairest graces spring
    In hearts that ever sing,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  1. Does sadness fill my mind?
    A solace here I find,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Or fades my earthly bliss?
    My comfort still is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  1. When evil thoughts molest,
    With this I shield my breast,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    The powers of darkness fear,
    When this sweet chant they hear,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  1. When sleep her balm denies,
    My silent spirit sighs,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    The night becomes as day,
    When from the heart we say,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  1. Be this, while life is mine,
    My canticle divine,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Be this th’ eternal song
    Through all the ages long,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!

Lyrics translated from 18th century German hymnal by Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

Music by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896)

If you’d like to hear a lovely arrangement of this hymn, including stanzas 1, 3, and 6, click here.

Merry Christmas!

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One thought on “Five Words For Christmas

  1. One of my favorite hymns since forever! Come join us at St. Andrews tonight…. contemporary – 5, traditional 7:30 – cantata 10, let it all hang out 11! You won’t be lonely!

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