April 20, 2011

Easter Carols

Growing up, there were Christmas hymns that I dreaded hearing in church. While I loved Hark, The Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and Silent Night, there were others that I just didn't think sounded at all Christmasy. I don't know what it was in my 6-year-old brain that considered Silent Night worthy of Christmas, but O Holy Night not, but that's how I felt. Now, my middle-aged brain finds it irritating that O Holy Night is almost never included in my church's Christmas Eve service. (I can only assume that someone on our staff must have been traumatized at some point in life by one too many bad O Holy Night solos.)

Source: Google Images
While I still love the jubilant and the sentimental carols, I have come to love the haunting ones just as much...maybe even more. While Holy Week always brings to my mind the more traditional songs of Easter, such as Were You There? and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, I also find the more haunting hymns of Christmas running through my mind this week, long after the Christmas decorations have been put away. These are the hymns that remind me that it is impossible to separate the Baby in the manger from the Savior on the Cross, for they are one and the same.

Beginning with Palm Sunday, I find myself singing the first verse of I Wonder As I Wander as it runs through my head over and over again.  My mind simply will not let it go...

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus, the Savior, did come forth to die,
For poor ornery people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander...
Out under the sky.

Then there's O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. It's a song that has been sung for hundreds of years - although most of those years it was sung in Latin. It's easy to imagine Christians who lived in the 15th century singing the mystical tune with words that paint a clear portrait of the Lamb of God. As I listen to it, I am overcome by the realization that Christ came to ransom more than captive Israel. He came to ransom all of captive mankind. He came to ransom me.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Just as I have learned that it is impossible to separate the manger from the cross, I have leaned that the joy of Christmas, the sorrow of Good Friday, and the jubilation of the Resurrection are all intertwined. And perhaps nothing says that better than the last verse of that Christmas carol I didn't care for as a child.

Truly He taught us to love one another; 
His law is love, and His gospel is peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name;
Christ is the Lord, Oh, praise His name forever!
His pow'r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow'r and glory evermore proclaim!

Blessings to you this Easter,

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
~Isaiah 53:5


  1. Good food for thought. And don't you know that one of the Easter hymns we'll be doing this Sunday is going to be added to my personal "never heard it before in my whole Southern Baptist life" list...:)

  2. Valerie - I can't wait to find out which song that is!

  3. The words from the beautiful Christmas music are so appropriate for Easter and express the significance of both so well. So glad you wrote of that. I'd never put the two together before.

  4. i love how your mind works, linking Christmas songs to
    easter ones. they do go hand in hand. looking back, we
    can't help taking the baby to the cross, which was always
    His destiny.

    my heart grows heavy at this time each year. "were you
    there . . .?" in His thoughts, "yes."

  5. Thank you Margaret for setting just the right tone for this day. Maundy Thursday's Service of Darkness is one of my 2 favorite services the other being Christmas Eve. Preparing for what is to come and remembering that Christmas is not about a tree and colorfully wrapped gifts and Easter is not about a bunny and peeps.

  6. When I Survey The Wondrous Cross is an AWESOME hymn!!!

    And O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas carol haha

  7. Such a sweet pairing of Christmas carols and Easter songs. The words all point to the same truth. You've shared it so well.

  8. Beautiful post Margaret. Music always feeds the soul when needed.