Sharp About Your Prayers

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The Hope and Fears of All the Years

October 25th, 2011 · 13 Comments · Faith and the City

Hey Good Readers,

I am working this week to frame up a series of sermons for Advent and Christmas, and I have a question for you:

What’s your favorite verse (or phrase) from a Christmas carol or an Advent hymn?

I know that we haven’t even passed trick-or-treating yet, but the choir and I need to work ahead.  Can you help me out?

I’ll prime the pump a bit by saying that—while I have many favorite carols—the phrase that I need to hear (and to sing) every Yuletide comes from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” by Phillips Brooks.  It is the final stanza of the first verse:

The hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight

Written for the children’s choir in his Philadelphia parish, there is something about Brooks’ hymn that grabs me, and—even though it is sung to a lullaby of a melody—thrills me.

So, what’s the line that you have to sing every year in order for you to make the journey from darkness to light once again?

As always, thanks for posting,


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13 Comments so far ↓

  • Peter WallaceNo Gravatar

    I like your line very much. But I guess I always love hearing “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…” especially when you think of the context of the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph traveling through treacherous country about to give birth, about to face Herod’s wrath… and yet, for now, just now, it is silent and holy, calm and bright. Thank God!

  • Tricia JuddNo Gravatar

    I used to dislike “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”– thought it was a bit awkward…until I heard its back story. Now it is one of my faves. “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep…God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…”

  • Lisa TilsonNo Gravatar

    Holiday songs always seem to be the accompaniment for the building expectations of the days to come, whether it’s the joy of christmas day or the fresh start of the new year. I always love the last few lines of Do You Hear What I Hear? “The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night. He will bring us goodness and light. He will bring us goodness and light.” It’s always a comfort to hear there’s light at the end of the tunnel and the repetition somehow affirms for me that it’s true and possible.

  • Joel Arandia

    “Toll the Ancient Yuletide Carol.” I have no idea what it means. I like it anyway.

  • DevinNo Gravatar

    I first heard “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” when we sang it (I think) last year. Wikipedia says it’s a Christmas Carol, though it doesn’t particularly reference Jesus’s birth. The verse I like the most is, “I’m weary with my former toil; Here I will sit and rest a while; Under the shadow I will be; Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.” It’s gentle, protective and comforting. And I think the comparison of Jesus to an apple tree is brilliant for reasons I cannot completely articulate.

    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Ok, Devin, I have got to tell you that “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” is my favorite tune of all Christmas Carols. It totally earwigs me, and I will hum it for days on end during December!

  • LLS

    Many favorites, but these warm and thrill me to the core:

    1. “Ding dong merrily on high, in heaven the bells are ringing, Ding dong verily the sky is riven with angels’ singing. Gloria, hosannah in excelsis! pray you dutifully chime your matin bells, ye ringers. May you beautifully rhyme your evetime song, ye singers. Gloria (etc)” (Yes, the whole song, esp the a cappella version performed by Chanticleer, how I love it!)

    2. From the Wassail song: “Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too.”

    3. From Angels we have heard on high: “Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o!”

    Probably a lot more I’m forgetting at the moment. It would be easier to give you a list of the super-annoying ones.


  • Kate DunnNo Gravatar

    I know I’m jumping past Advent to Christmas, but after reading this post I now have Jim Nabors’ “Go Tell it on the Mountain” singing in my head. That is one of the most joyful carols I know, and a real rock for my faith as well.

  • AmyNo Gravatar

    I love the lyrics to “In the Bleak Midwinter” from the Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti. I am particularly fond of the last stanza:

    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.

  • Jenny

    Well, we share a favorite line in “the hopes and fears of all the years . . .” But I also love “People look east and sing today; Love, the Lord, is on the way.”

  • JennyNo Gravatar

    One more — it’s not a hymn, per se, but I love the Mary Chapin Carpenter song “Come Darkness, Come Light.” If you aren’t familiar with it, check it out!

  • Laura FissingerNo Gravatar

    My composer Dad was one of many who set the poem “Love Came Down At Christmas” to music. It is an exquisite poem (and easy to Google!). My favorite couplet: “Love came down at Christmas/Love be yours and love be mine…” For years after my Dad’s passing in 1990, I couldn’t listen to that track at all; more than any of his numerous works, that one sonically captures him for me. I listened to it one day in Mitchell Crawford’s office — and could not hold it together. Tears of sadness, joy, and gratitude for the season of watching for Him.

  • DavidNo Gravatar

    I love many carols, but I seem to have a fondness for french ones. Oh, Holy Night is amazing; but my all-time favorite is O Come, O Come Emanuel. The 15th century chant is haunting and inspiring and joyful and reflective. My favorite verse is this:

    O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
    Who orderest all things mightily;
    To us the path of knowledge show,
    And teach us in her ways to go.

    I love the notion that when we are seeking knowledge and understanding, we are seeking God. I also like the reminder that Emanuel is not just God in Christ, but also the Holy Spirit (which seems to be often short shrift part of the Trinity).