EDITOR’S NOTE: As the Christmas/Advent season is in full bloom, BaptistMessenger.com is sharing this article series by Keith Getty to help readers learn more about the great carols that are being sung this time of year. From Dec. 2 through Dec. 12, an article will be published each day. The Baptist Messenger hopes this series will enrich the holiday season for you, as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- Dec 2: 10 Christmas carols to celebrate and share the Savior of the world
- Dec 3: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- Dec 4: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
- Dec 5: Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- Dec 6: O Come All Ye Faithful
- Dec 7: Once in Royal David’s City
- Dec 8: O Little Town of Bethlehem
- Dec 9: Silent Night
- Dec 10: Angels We Have Heard on High
- Dec 11: Joy to the World
This carol is the creation of two extraordinary artistic talents: English poet Christina Rosetti and German composer Gustav Holst best known for composing the orchestral suite The Planets. For me, this melody is the most beautiful of all the Christmas carol melodies.
In the second verse of the carol, Rosetti contrasts the reigning Lord of all heaven and earth with the ruler of all becoming a man and being born in the humblest of circumstances.
Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
In fact, all the way through the original first four verses, Rosetti juxtaposes the divinity of Jesus with His humanity. And, again, we are encouraged to look back in wonder at His birth as a baby 2,000 years ago, but also to look forward to the day when Jesus will come again and reign over the Earth.
We sing this carol about halfway through the second half of our Christmas concerts. It’s always a special moment of devotion. Particularly when we come to the last verse:
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.
It reminds us of the need to not only stand at the crib filled with wonder at the incarnation and adore our God who chooses to take on the fragile frame of a human being; it also reminds us that we need to respond, to do something with the revelation we have received. Our greatest act of worship is not in the gifts and abilities we might have that we can use for God’s glory but in the simple, and sometimes harder act of giving our hearts, our full selves, to Jesus in an act of surrender, allowing Him to use us as He wishes.
For our latest Christmas tour, we took the Gloria refrain from Antonin Dvořák’s New World Symphony and added in a chorus; it’s just delightful!
Gloria, Gloria! Now my eyes have seen
Soli Deo Gloria! He salvation brings
In the bleak midwinter I may go in peace.
The wonderfully descriptive words and plaintive melody come together to make this a carol that can open our eyes to the eternal truth of the enduring humility and power of the Son of God.
To get tickets for Sing! An Irish Christmas tour head over to: https://www.gettymusic.com/christmas