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Here We Go A-Caroling

Tonight is our church Christmas caroling excursion, and I'm excited. Even if you can't carry a tune in a bucket, it's fun to go around in our community singing Christmas songs. The songs themselves often go unnoticed, so I wanted to give a few of them time to shine today.

A quick glance in your hymnal will tell you most of our traditional carols date from 1700 on; they're all fairly new as far as the Church goes. One of the oldest dates to the 1100s: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Strictly speaking, it's an Advent, not a Christmas, song, but "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" (its original Latin title) is still a Christmas favorite. (The same "out of season" comment goes for "We Three Kings," except it's meant for Epiphany -- the day the Wise Men actually came.)

A lot of our carols have interesting stories behind them. "Silent Night" was composed as a poem by a German pastor who then had a friend write music for guitar accompaniment to go with the poem; the church organ was broken on Christmas Eve. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's response to family tragedy during the Civil War. "What Child Is This?" borrows the tune "Greensleeves," an English folk song about a jilted lover (thought to have been the king). And "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is believed to be Catholic catechism designed to teach the faith in a time Roman Catholicism was practically outlawed in England. (Debatable, but a strong possibility.)

Regardless of age, history, or season, we love to sing these carols at this time of year. And we should. We should do all we can to celebrate the birth of Jesus, just as we will later celebrate his death and resurrection. All things in their proper place, however, and so sing we now of Christmas, of comfort and joy, of the birthday of a king in a little town called Bethlehem. Come, let us adore him!

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