Friday, December 13, 2013

There's a Song in the Air (Strength in Hymn)

"There's a Song in the Air"
 by Josiah Holland

There's a song in the air!
There's a star in the sky!
There's a mother's deep prayer
And a baby's low cry!
And the star rains its fire  while the Beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a king.

There's a tumult of joy
O'er the wonderful birth,
For the virgin's sweet boy
Is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! the star rains its fire and the Beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a king. 

In the light of that star
Lie the ages impearled;
And that song from afar
Has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame, and the Beautiful sing
In the homes of the nations that Jesus is King. 

We rejoice in the light,
And we echo the song
That comes down through the night
From the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
And we greet in his cradle our Saviour and King. 

The Story Behind the Hymn: You can read more about the background of this 1872 hymn and its lyricist here: "There's a Song in the Air" at United Methodist Reporter.  It is tempting to think of the idyllic lifestyles of centuries past, but I remind myself that this song was written not long after the Civil War, and Josiah Holland had experienced many frustrations and disappointments in life. 

The Photographs:  The stained glass nativity set below the poem was made 28 years ago by my mother, who passed away this summer.  I took the photo of the stained glass window last month at Winter Park Presbyterian Church when we stopped at their Global Christmas Market mentioned in this post: We Plough the Fields and Scatter. (I have a certain fascination for stained glass in vintage churches, as you can see in this post from last year: Beauty and Diversity on an Autumn Sunday in Maryland.)  I had often driven by the Winter Park church on our way to our own church, which meets in a middle school. (No stained glass there!)  Anyway, I knew there were gorgeous windows, so I peeked inside the sanctuary before we left. I was delighted, of course.  Mine is only a quick snapshot, but you can view the church's whole photo gallery of stained glass windows.  I'm glad. Beauty sings.

Why I Picked this Hymn: For this season of Advent, I wanted to highlight a few lesser known Christmas hymns. This one speaks to me of joy, which does not come naturally right now in my own season of life.  Exhaustion catches up with me, I hear a piece of troubling news in the community or around the world, I visit a friend's beautifully decorated and tidy home and compare it to my own, a child is not making as much progress as I'd like to see and "a mother's deep prayer" doesn't seem to be getting through, I know a friend is hurting badly, I get angry at an injustice done to another, I worry about whether I will ever get "enough" done, or I sense disconnection from loved ones -- or whatever it is that brings a sense of sadness.  And then this lovely old carol calls me back to the reality that the Beautiful sing about the King caring enough to come and be with us in the middle of our troubles.  The star rains its fire into the dark night.  How poetic! I could use some star fire right now. How about a miracle aflame at my hearth?  This carol calls for a response: to rejoice and echo and shout and greet.  I don't know about a shout right now, but I think I can at least whisper: "Thank you, Jesus."

This post is part of my Strength in Hymn series which combines hymn texts, photography, and encouragement for the spiritually weary.  The other Christmas song in this series so far is The Wexford Carol.

You might also like to read: Beating Holiday Blues and Stress.

Peace on earth!

Virginia Knowles

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Wexford Carol (Strength in Hymn)

"The Wexford Carol"
Traditional Irish Carol

Good people all, this Christmas-time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His beloved Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day:
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God's angels did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
"Prepare and go," the angels said,
"To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
For there you'll find, this happy morn,
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born."

With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the Babe to find,
And as God's angel had foretold,
They did our Saviour Christ behold.
Within a manger He was laid,
And by his side the Virgin Maid,
As long foretold,
there was a blessed Messiah born.

My Strength in Hymn series is featuring four Christmas carols for the season of Advent.  I'd like to pick ones that aren't as familiar to most people, and the beautiful, haunting "Wexford Carol" is one of my obscure favorites. Watch cellist Yo-Yo Ma and vocalist Alison Krauss perform this carol in the studio: Wexford Carol.

I am just now putting the Christmas page back on my main blog.  Please visit and see all of my posts about food, poetry, music, art, practical tips, and inspiration!

Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His beloved Son.

Watching the Good Shepherd,

Virginia Knowles