Some favorite Christmas carols might take a little poetic license with the biblical story of the birth of Christ.
For instance, Away in a Manger claims the baby Jesus didn't cry. Really? Never?
A bishop in the Church of England was concerned that the birth story be told properly. In 1880, E.W. Benson, who eventually became archbishop of Canterbury, devised a new Christmas service. He held the first Festival of Lessons and Carols in a wooden shed at his parish in England.
John Linker, organist and choir master at Lexington's Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, said Benson's service was intended to tell the Christmas story in a simple, accessible way.
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The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols combines biblical text with a selection of music, often beginning the service with the carol, Once in Royal David's City.
"Its fame was escalated when King's College choir (of Cambridge, England) began broadcasting the service," Linker said. The service has been heard on the radio every year since 1928 (except 1930), including during World War II when the chapel windows had to be removed.
"For me, favorite carols are the one that encapsulate the theology," said Linker, citing Love Came Down at Christmas, with text by Christina Rosetti, as a favorite.
What song do you think best expresses the meaning of Christmas? Our Faith Bloggers shared their thoughts on Christmas carols.
■ Kory Wilcoxson, Crestwood Christian Church, Lexington: The meaning of Christmas has been so co-opted by our culture that my favorite Christmas carol is actually an Advent carol: O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
That song expresses the passionate longing for the arrival of Jesus, conveying a sense of expectancy that we've completely lost in our instant-gratification society.
We live in a time when we yell at our microwave to "Hurry up!" so it's nice to be reminded that some things are worth waiting for.
As for a Christmas carol, you can't beat Joy to the World. It comes as close as humanly possible to matching the gift of Christ with a sense of celebration and gratitude.
■ Roger Bruner, Mill Street Church of Christ, London: A hymn by Vana R. Raye, He Loves Me, answers why Jesus came to earth and fulfilled God's eternal purpose for man.
"Why did the Savior heaven leave and come to earth below,/ Where men his grace would not receive? Because he loves me so!
"Why did the Savior mark the way, and why temptation know?/ Why teach and toil and plead and pray? Because he loves me so!
"Why feel the garden's dreadful dross? Why through his trials go?/Why suffer death upon the cross? Because he loves me so!
"He loves me! He loves me!/He loves me this I know!
"He gave himself to die for me, because he loves me so!"
■ Joseph N. Greenfield, Help Me to Live Again Ministries Inc., Wilmore: Christmas Carols are not our source for theology. There is only one source for the understanding of God — the Bible. What does it matter if these songs are less than precise? They bring great meaning, hope and encouragement.
The best Christmas carol anyone can sing is one that raises the name of Jesus and how with him life becomes life not only on Christmas but any day of the year. Season's greetings to all!
■ Myron Williams, Southland Christian Church, Lexington: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing reminds us of the message of the angels. the birth of Christ. his virgin birth. the incarnation of God in flesh. the prophecies of Isaiah referred to in Luke's account of the birth. and the work of Jesus in giving life through his sacrifice.
This carol represents the best of the Gospel story; not only of Christmas and the birth of Emmanuel, but the story of the whole life of Jesus.
■ Rachael Brooks, New Hope Church, Lexington: Away in a Manger contains no lyrics of concern to this mother! In fact, I can attest that our third child, unlike her siblings, often did not cry for days at a time.
In fact, I find no hymns that have such serious theological problems that I would desire to ban them from worship.
I believe the Advent hymn, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence best expresses the meaning of Christmas. This hymn conveys the contrast between the divine and the human, and stresses mankind's rightful place in the presence of an immortal and all-powerful God.
The minor key and the beautiful melody are a haunting reminder of why Christ came to earth and are a foreshadowing of the end of Christ's life.