Explanations of 8 Funny-Sounding Christmas Carol Lyrics

Christians have music for every season, however many of ours most renowned hymns and songs celebrate Jesus’ birth. This weekend, plenty of of united state will song an assortment that Christmas carols: “Silent Night” and also “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” on Christmas Eve; “Joy to the World” and also “Away in a Manger” ~ above Christmas morning; maybe and eardrum-shattering rendition of “O divine Night” once we’re alone in the car.

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As us “sing we now of Christmas” and “repeat the sounding joy,” we’ll come throughout lyrics native the 18th and 19th centuries that don’t make much sense in 21st-century American English. Here’s a guide to assist you analyze some of the strange, confusing, and also archaic unit volume you’ll encounter.

“round yon virgin”

from “Silent Night” indigenous by Joseph Mohr (1818), translated into English by john F. Young

“Virgin” obviously describes Jesus’ mother, Mary. “Yon” sounds a lot like “young,” which would be suitable given Mary’s likely age at the moment of Jesus’ birth. There’s nothing unusual around referring to mary as a young virgin, however why space saying that she’s “round”? Isn’t the a rude thing to say about a woman who has just given birth?

Let’s ago up. “Yon” actually has nothing to carry out with Mary’s youth. Quite it is a shortened kind of “yonder,” as in “way over yonder.” “Round” is brief for “around.” for this reason the whole lyric is one abbreviated means of saying, “around yonder virgin,” which doesn’t do a most sense till you placed it in context. The previous line is “all is calm, every is bright.” put it all together and you get: “All is calm and bright approximately the virgin end there.”

“gloria in excelsis Deo”

from “Angels We have actually Heard top top High” traditional French carol, interpreted into English by James Chadwick (1862)

“Glória in excélsis Deo” is Latin for “Glory to God in the highest” and is the opening line come a doxology used in the roman Catholic Mass and in east Orthodox prayer services. The doxology, generally known as the Gloria, likewise appears in The united Methodist Hymnal and in both rites the the divine Eucharist in the Anglican publication of typical Prayer.

“the cattle are lowing”

from “Away in a Manger” cotton

“Low” is simply an old-fashioned way of speak “moo.” So, in “Away in a Manger,” the cows wake up up infant Jesus v their moos. However no crying the makes. In “Infant Holy, child Lowly,” the oxen perform some lowing of their own.

“True God of true God, irradiate from irradiate Eternal . . . Child of the Father, begotten no created”

from “O Come, every Ye Faithful” words by man F. Walking (1743), analyzed into English by Frederick Oakeley (1841)

Most that the 2nd verse that “O Come, every Ye Faithful” is taken directly from the Nicene Creed, the declare of faith embraced by the board of directors of Nicaea in 325 and tweaked by the the supervisory board of Constantinople 56 year later. The Nicene Creed asserted that, when Christ to be “begotten” by God the Father, he was of the same substance and essence as the Father and thus was not developed by the Father.

Like most of the old ecumenical councils, the board of directors of Nicaea’s major purpose to be to settle disputes about Christology. The council had to articulate how the 3 persons the the Trinity to be distinct but equally God. They also had to explain what it meant for Jesus to have been totally human and totally divine. Go he have two natures? 2 wills?

Though arguments about Christology brought on for centuries after ~ Nicaea, the Nicene Creed has actually remained a foundational statement of Christian Orthodoxy. Still now Christians about the civilization recite the Creed each week in worship.

“late gradually behold the come”

from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” words by Charles Wesley (1739)

Is this Charles Wesley’s way of saying, “Blessed are the procrastinators”?

Actually, this line has nothing to carry out with being late. Instead it echoes Galatians 4:4: “But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman.” “Late in time” is simply another method to say, “When the fulfillment of the moment came” or the more familiar “in the fullness that time.” we encounter comparable language in mark 1:15 and also Ephesians 1:10.

“ever o’er its Babel sounds”

from “It came Upon a Midnight Clear” words by Edmund H. Sears (1849)

“It came Upon a Midnight Clear” is a song around a song. The “glorious tune of old” in the carol’s opened line is the tune that the “heavenly host” sang come the shepherds in the fields on the night that Jesus’ birth. Edmund H. Sears managed to compose 4 verses around a tune that (depending on her translation that the Bible) consists of only 14 words.

The second verse is about the weary world—the one in which we live and also into i m sorry Jesus to be born—and that “Babel sounds.” “Babel” is of course the surname of the site where “All civilization on the earth” (Genesis 11:1) made decision to develop “a city and a tower with its height in the sky” to do a surname for themselves (11:4). God didn’t approve and also created various languages so the the human being wouldn’t be able to understand one another. The civilization stopped structure the city, and also God dispersed them transparent the earth.

The city lock left behind became known as “Babel,” a pat on the Hebrew native balal, meaning “confusion.” now “babel” describes a chaos of noises and voices. The second verse of “It come Upon a Midnight Clear” says that the angel’s song was an effective enough to cut through the “Babel sounds” of ours lowly world.

“Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen”

from “Good King Wenceslas” native by man Mason Neale (1853)

Many a Protestant has actually wondered, “Why execute we sing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ throughout the Christmas season?” The song makes no cite of Jesus’ birth. There room no shepherds, no angels, no virgin. The lyrics mention “winter fuel” and also “snow” and also that “the night is darker now.” Is “Good King Wenceslas” just an additional cold weather song—like “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and also “Let the Snow”—that has end up being a Christmas carol even though it has nothing to perform with Christmas?

Not exactly. The tune tells the story of a gracious king who provides a struggling peasant food, company, and encouragement during the Feast of Stephen. The Feast the Stephen, i beg your pardon commemorates the an initial Christian martyr (Acts 6:8–7:60), falls on December 26 in the roman Catholic tradition and also December 27 in the east Orthodox tradition. (Since countless Eastern Orthodox churches still usage a Julian calendar, their Feast the Stephen isn’t till January 9 on our calendar.) Stephen’s job doesn’t actually have actually anything to carry out with Jesus’ birth, however it walk fall during the liturgical season that Christmas.

So “Good King Wenceslas” is ideal for the season. It’s also a quite reminder come Christians the we have a obligation to emulate Jesus, even if it method taking a break from our vacation celebrations to aid someone stranded in the cold.

“God rest you merry, gentlemen”

from “God remainder You Merry, Gentlemen” author unknown

“God rest You Merry, Gentlemen” most likely originated in the 18th century, i beg your pardon was reportedly a time when human being used typical words in combinations that didn’t make any sense.

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It sounds funny today, but “God rest you merry, gentlemen” is much more than simply a random assortment that words. “Rest” here way “keep” or “make.” and also when you replace “rest” with among those other words, the phrase still sounds funny, but it makes much more sense: “God store you merry, gentlemen.”

You’ll also notification that over there is a comma between “merry” and also “gentlemen.” The lyric isn’t around “merry gentlemen.” Rather, that is a wish the God will make the gentlemen merry together they recall Jesus’ birth. I’m not sure why the anonymous writer didn’t incorporate ladies, who also need “tidings of comfort and joy.”

Josh Tinley is a curriculum editor for Abingdon Press and also the writer of Kneeling in the end Zone: spiritual Lessons from the people of Sports.