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"The Marvelous Story of Many of Our Christmas Hymns"
To Be Used In A Setting of Worship

The following is published by permission of the Rev. Denzel Nonhof (   The rubrics, suggested order of service, and narratives concerning the various hymns or carols are his with the exception of that for "Silent Night".   "The information on "Silent Night" was taken Charlene Fairchild's A Tribute To Silent Night.   The Specific Prayers and Order that follow the eight narrative texts are that of the Rev. Richard Fairchild.

The Rev. Denzel Nonhof writes: This celebration of the marvelous story of many our Christmas Hymns was first written for Christmas 1994.   It was prepared while my daughter Charissa was in the St. Francis Hospital in Aurora, Nebraska.   Many of the materials used in gathering these stories are from books no longer in print.   As with so much which we have as Christians, we must be thankful to the many who have given us so much.   May this service be used to the glory of God as we ponder the majesty and mystery of God who gave us the best gift of all His Son Jesus!

1994, 1999

The Rev. Denzel Nonhof
HC 3, Box 3580
Shell Knob, Missouri 65747-9114

and adapted for use for


The Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
1045 King Crescent
Golden, BC, V0A 1H2


To use this work, please list the hymns in the bulletin in the
order given.  One may desire to intersperse the hymns with
Scripture reading, also, but personally, I think the following
order is sufficient.  Prior to the singing of each hymn, a reader
shall read the history of the hymn.  It is wise to omit reading
any material given in parentheses, especially dates.  This
information is only provided in case one wishes to do further
research.  It is not necessary to read the title information and
who the hymn is by prior to reading the text.  In fact, to omit
this material can make this more like a mystery to the listeners,
and so more interesting.  Please feel free to adapt and change
this material.

Please have all readers and participants in the service close to
the place from where they will be reading.  You can have several
points from where they will read.  It is not necessary to have
all from the pulpit.  You may alternate from the pulpit to
another microphone or two.  Use choir people, Elders, youth, any
who can read well.

It is recommended that the church have printed in the bulletin
something like the following order of service.  The names of the
readers may be published next to the hymn/narration they are
responsible for.  Please note that numbers to the right of each
hymn are those which correspond to the page numbers in "Voices
United", the United Church of Canada Hymnal, 1996.   Alternate
numbers in brackets are those from "Hymns for the Family of God",
Paragon Associates, 1976, the hymnal used at Trinity Presbyterian
Church in Shell Knob, Missouri.

This material may be used without permission if no profit is made
from the use of this material.


Greeting, Welcome, Announcements:
Combined Prayer of Adoration and Confession:
Assurance of Forgiveness
Passing the Peace
Scripture Reading:  Luke 2:1-20 (or Lectionary Text: John 1:1-14)
Prayers of the People:
Offering with Doxology and Dedication
   Reader 1: Introduction
   Reader 2: O Little Town of Bethlehem               - VU 64  (178)
   Reader 3: O Come All Ye Faithful                   - VU 60  (193)
   Reader 4: Angels from the Realms of Glory          - VU 36  (190)
   Reader 5: It came upon the Midnight Clear          - VU 44  (197)
   Reader 6: Silent Night                             - VU 67  (195)
   Reader 7: We Three Kings                        - bulletin  (206)
   Reader 8: Joy to the World                         - VU 59  (171)
Closing Prayer

                            Reader 1:

When we worship God, our ideas of God are formed by the
Scriptures we hear read and by the songs and hymns we sing.  Many
of us can sing parts or all of our favorite Christmas Carols from
memory.  Because we remember the words, these carols and songs
have greatly helped to form our faith.

This morning we are going to learn about many of our favorite
Christmas songs.  We learn about them, because they help us to
express our joy and hope which comes to us in Jesus Christ. 
These songs teach us about the mystery and wonder of a child born
to be King of kings and Lord of lords.

We will lift our voices in joyous celebration, remembering the
one who was born in a manger to die on a cross to be resurrected
on the third day, who ascended into heaven and even this day
prays for us.  He will come again, to take all the faithful to
live with him forever.

Let us pray:  O Lord, who sent Jesus to be born in a stable in
Bethlehem; we praise you for coming into this world as a child. 
Many have pondered the mystery of the God who became flesh and
dwelt among us.  We ponder that marvelous mystery today.  We
thank you for song writers, and hymn writers who gave us a rich
heritage of songs and carols to sing as we celebrate the birth of
Jesus.  Bless us in our singing, and be honored as we rejoice in
this event we call Christmas!  Amen.

Let us listen and hear the story of how one of our favorite
Christmas songs came to be.

                            Reader 2:

Phillips Brooks was born in 1835.  He began serving Holy Trinity
Church in the City of Brotherly Love, at the age of 24.  He was
an Episcopalian Priest.  In 1865, he went on a trip to the Holy
Lands - visiting Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, riding there on
horseback.  As he prepared his Christmas service for 1868,
Phillips recalled his trip three years earlier and penned a 5
stanza poem which we know as O Little Town of Bethlehem.  The
poem was written especially with the children of the parish in

The day after he wrote this poem, Phillips handed it to Mr. Lewis
Redner, the Church Organist and Sunday School Superintendent and
requested him to write the music for it.  Rev. Brooks said, "If
it is a good tune, I will name it "St. Lewis' after you."  Thirty
six children first sang this song on December 27, 1868.

Let us sing:  O Little Town of Bethlehem                      178
          by Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

                            Reader 3:

Despite the wide fame of our next hymn, nothing certain is known
of the Latin original from which it was translated.  Much
guesswork has focused on John Francis Wade (1711-1786), "who made
a living by copying and selling plain chant and other music." He
lived at Douai, in France, where there was a large colony of
English Catholics centered around the famous college.  Wade made
all the known manuscript copies dated 1746-1760.  Whether the
lines were his own invention or whether he was copying a lost
archetype is not known; nor was he certainly the composer of the
tune.  What we can safely conclude is that "hymn and tune came to
us together, in the services of the Roman Catholic Church, during
the first part of the 18th century.

At about 1786, a duke of Leeds happened to hear ADESTE FIDELES in
the Portuguese Chapel and introduced the tune as "The Portuguese
Hymn," at the concert of Ancient Music, of which he was director. 
The misnomer is still retained in some hymnals.  ADESTE FIDELES
was a favorite Christmas summons for the Roman Catholic Church,
just as "O Come, all ye faithful" is favored by the Protestants.

We will now sing  O Come All Ye Faithful                      193

                           Reader 4:

James Montgomery was the son of Missionaries who went to the West
Indies and left their son in a boarding school when he was only 6
years old.  While his devout parents shared the gospel, their son
was shuttled from home to home.  He failed at school.  He failed
as a baker's apprentice.  But, he could write poetry.  In time,
he worked for The Sheffield Register, a radical newspaper which
he later bought out and renamed, The Iris.  Because of addressing
sensitive political issues in his paper, twice Mr. Montgomery was
fined and imprisoned.

On Christmas Eve, 1816, at the age of 45, James published his
poem, "Angels from the realms of glory," in his paper.

The stirring tune, Regent Square came from the pen of the blind
musician composer, Henry Smart who was born in 1813 and lived
until 1879.  The name Regent Square was taken from the most
prominent Presbyterian Church in London.  Montgomery produced
more than 400 hymns, surpassed only by Charles Wesley and Isaac
Watts in the number of hymns now in general use throughout

Together let us sing  Angels From the Realms of Glory         190
          by James Montgomery (1771-1854)

                            Reader 5:

The only Unitarian clergyman who produced a Christmas hymn that
outlived his own day and generation was a New Englander, the Rev.
Edmund Hamilton Sears.

Unitarians reject the deity of Christ, which means they do not
believe that Jesus Christ was equal with God.  They teach Jesus
is inferior to God, but superior to humans.  They claim Jesus was
divine just as all of God's children are divine.  They reject the
doctrine of the Holy Trinity, that God is Father, Son, and Holy

Rev. Sears was one of the first to spread the social message of
Christianity, chiefly through this famous hymn.  The message he
wished to share with all is, "Peace on earth, good will towards

The tune Carol, is one of the better efforts of an American
composer, Richard S. Willis.  Mr. Willis was born in 1819 and
died in 1900.  He could boast that Mendelssohn had revised some
of his compositions.

Let us sing of the Prince of Peace as we join our voices in
singing  It Came Upon the Midnight Clear                      197
          by Rev. Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876)

                            Reader 6:

Many interesting fables abound for the origins of "Silent Night."
Most of them are fanciful and untrue.  Many of these anecdotal 
stories  claim that Pastor Joseph Mohr of St. Nicholas Church 
in Oberndorf, Germany, wrote the words on Dec. 24, 1818 in order
to provide a guitar-accompanied carol for Midnight Mass.  They 
claim the church organ did not work because mice ate the bellows.

In fact the church organ worked just fine.  And the words - well 
Pastor Mohr had written them in the form of a poem two years 
earlier while serving at the pilgrim church in Mariapfarr. 
The truth is that on Christmas Eve of 1818 Pastor Mohr decided 
that it might be nice to have a new carol for the coming service.
And he thought that his poem could be set to music.  He hurried 
off to see his friend, Franz Gruber, who was a school teacher and 
also served as the church's organist and choir master.  Maybe he 
could help.  And he did.  In a few short hours Franz came up with
the hauntingly beautiful melody that is so loved and revered to 
this day.  At the request of Joseph, who had a special love for 
his guitar,  Franz composed the music for guitar accompaniment.  
Just short hours later, Franz stood with his friend the pastor, 
Joseph, in front of the altar in St. Nicholas church and 
introduced "Stille Nacht" to the congregation.

"That night, a song was born which has become an anchor for 
Christmas celebrations everywhere.  Silent Night" has been translated
into nearly 300 languages and dialects.  Its lullaby-like melody and 
simple message of heavenly peace can be heard from small town street 
corners in mid-America to magnificent cathedrals in Europe and from 
outdoor candlelight concerts in Australia to palm-thatched huts in 
northern Peru. 

The English version we sing comes from the 1863 translation by the 
Rev. John Freeman Young.  Rev. Young was elected Bishop of the 
Episcopalian Church in Florida in 1867.

Let us sing one of the most favorite of all Christmas Songs -Silent Night
          (by Father Joseph Mohr (1792-1848)

                            Reader 7:

Both the text and tune of this next Epiphany carol were written
by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in 1857.  It was first published in
1863.  The poem is a tiny masterpiece of its sort, and the tune
achieves the character of a folksong.  John was the distinguished
son of an honored Bishop of the Episcopalian Church in Vermont. 
He wrote many other poems which became hymns, but none as famous
as this one.

Hopkins was not content with just telling the story of the visit
of the wisemen.  Unlike many poets, this native American hymn-
writer looked beyond Christmas to Good Friday and to Easter day
with the words, "Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and
Sacrifice; Alleluia, Alleluia, Sounds through the earth and

As we sing this song, looking beyond Christmas Day, let us
remember the wonders of the magi who visited the Christ Child. 
Our song is We Three Kings of Orient Are                      206
          by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (1820-1891)

                            Reader 8:

When Isaac Watts was 18 years of age, he criticized the hymns of
the church.  His father said, "If you don't like the hymns we
sing, then write a better one!"  To that Isaac replied, "I have." 
One of his hymns was shared with the church they attended and
they asked the young man to write more.  For 222 Sundays, Isaac
Watts prepared a new hymn for each Sunday, and single-handedly
revolutionized the congregational singing habits of the English
Churches.  In 1705, Watts published his first volume of original
hymns and sacred poems.  More followed.  In 1719, he published
his monumental work, "The Psalms of David, Imitated."  In
preparing this work, he focused on Psalm 98, especially verses 4,
6, 8 & 9, when he wrote his hymn which we know as Joy to the

For many years, only Psalms were sung throughout the Presbyterian
Churches.  The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
in the United States convened at the Second Presbyterian Church
in Philadelphia in May of 1789.  The Rev. Adam Rankin rode
horseback from his Kentucky parish to the seat of the Assembly to
plead with his fellow Presbyterians, to reject the use of Watts
hymns.  He cautioned the Assembly Commissioners "to refuse to
allow the great and pernicious error of adoption the use of
Watt's hymns in public worship in preference to Rouse's
versifications of the Psalms of David."

Set to a musical theme adapted by Dr. Lowell Mason (1792-1872),
from "The Messiah" by George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), "Joy
to the Lord" is, as its first word suggests, one of the most
joyous hymns of the Christmas Season.

Our closing hymn is:  Joy to the World                        171
          by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

                  AFTER CHRISTMAS - YEAR B

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)

L    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
     and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P    And also with you.

L    As we light these candles today, we thank God for hope he
     gives us, for the peace he bestows, for the joy he pours
     into our hearts, and for the love that redeems us and shows
     us the way.
P    We thank God for his gift of Jesus.  We thank him that thru
     Christ his light has come into the world and made it
     possible for us to see, and in seeing, to rejoice.  His 
     truth, his love, his very self, transforms all who receive

     Light the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Christ Candle

L    Let us Pray
P    Loving God, Emmanuel, we thank you for being with us - for
     sending your Son to walk with us and to lead us.  As Christ
     Jesus was born of Mary, so may he be born in us and through
     us revealed to the world.  Grant that the hope, the peace,
     the joy, and the love of which we have heard and spoken of
     throughout Advent may be fully realized in us as we worship
     and serve you through him, this both now and forevermore. 

* HYMN: "A Candle is Burning"                              - VU 6

- Announcements
- Gathering in of Prayer Joys and Concerns

     (NRSV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
     God, and the Word was God. {2} He was in the beginning with
     God. {3} All things came into being through him, and without
     him not one thing came into being. What has come into being
     {4} in him was life, and the life was the light of all
     people. {5} The light shines in the darkness, and the
     darkness did not overcome it. {6} There was a man sent from
     God, whose name was John. {7} He came as a witness to
     testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
     {8} He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to
     the light. {9} The true light, which enlightens everyone,
     was coming into the world. {10} He was in the world, and the
     world came into being through him; yet the world did not
     know him. {11} He came to what was his own, and his own
     people did not accept him. {12} But to all who received him,
     who believed in his name, he gave power to become children
     of God, {13} who were born, not of blood or of the will of
     the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. {14} And the
     Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his
     glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace
     and truth.

L    This is the gospel of our Risen Lord
P    Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ

Loving God, we praise you for the prophets who told us to wait in
hope, for the word you gave them has come true.  We thank you for
the promise of one would who would reveal to us your nature and
show us the way to your kingdom for a child has been born to us,
your Son has been given to us.  Help us to accept and receive him
and to be witnesses to your glory...  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord Jesus, Word of God made flesh among us, shine into our lives
like the Bethlehem star - and reveal your truth and grace.  Be
born in our hearts as you were born of Mary.  Help us to accept
and receive you and to be witnesses to your glory...  Lord hear
our prayer...

Spirit of God, strength, comfort, and wisdom within, overshadow
us and come upon us.  Help us to say yes to all that you have
planned for us and fulfill the calling to which you call us. 
Help us to accept and receive the gifts you pour out upon us and
to minister your love to the world around us...  Lord hear our

Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hear our prayers of
thanksgiving and of intercession.  We hold before you the joys
you have granted us and our world and we lift to you the burdens
you have placed upon hearts....

We thank you for
Lord hear our prayer... 

And we hold up to you
Lord, hear our prayer...

Gracious God, we ask all this knowing that you indeed hear us,
for we pray as your son Jesus, he who is our brother and Lord
taught us, saying.... Our Father...

* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU
541) and Prayer of Dedication

     Dear Lord God, we give you for your gifts to us - for
     how you have held nothing back of yourself, but rather
     come among us in Christ Jesus to save us and make us
     new.  We offer to you now our lives and with them the
     work of our hands as represented by that which is
     contained by these plates.  Bless us and what we offer
     in his most Holy Service - both now and forevermore. 

Reader 1: Introduction
Reader 2: O Little Town of Bethlehem               - VU 64  (178)
Reader 3: O Come All Ye Faithful                   - VU 60  (193)
Reader 4: Angels from the Realms of Glory          - VU 36  (190)
Reader 5: It came upon the Midnight Clear          - VU 44  (197)
Reader 6: Silent Night                             - VU 67  (195)
Reader 7: We Three Kings                        - bulletin  (206)
Reader 8: Joy to the World                         - VU 59  (171)

* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
     go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people
     of God, the body of Christ.

Go in peace; and may the joy of Mary upon seeing her new born son
e in your hearts.  May God fill you with his Spirit and speak to
your innermost being, guiding you in the way you should go.  And
may the love of Christ surround you and shine forth from you;
both now and forevermore.  Amen


copyright  - Denzel Nonhof 1994 - 2006 and Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1999 - 2006
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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