Sunday, 23 December 2012

My Favourite Carol

We were once invited to provide a small choir to assist a local soccer team with some fundraising in a local shopping centre. Happy to help, we went through the repertoire of well-known carols until one of the organisers stopped us. He was a bit disappointed with our effort.  “Couldn’t you sing REAL carols – a bit more upbeat.”  Intrigued, I asked him what he meant. “You know real carols, like Jingle Bells, Rudolph etc”

Despite the poor man’s assertion, those aren’t carols. They are songs. Christmas carols have a clear purpose – they are to remind us of a deep theological truth – of the Word made flesh. We all need the annual reminder and a good carol expresses deep truth in a simple, rhythmical and easily singable way.  It tells us what God has done in Christ.

Some carols do this brilliantly.  “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” for example, by Charles Wesley, has lines of profound theological truth such as........ 

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the Incarnate Deity”

That is sheer genius! But my favourite carol is one which is not well known, hardly ever sung and in danger of being lost forever.  It was written by Emily Elliott in 1864 and was first used at St. Mark’s Church in Bright­on, Eng­land, where El­li­ott’s fa­ther was rec­tor. In 1870 it was pub­lished in the “Church Missionary Juvenile Instructor”, which El­li­ott ed­it­ed. It is called “Thou dist leave thy throne” and I try to read it again every year (or sing it to myself).  Here is the complete version.

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.


O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.


The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.


Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.


When the heav’ns shall ring, and her choirs shall sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”

My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Notice how the carol starts with Bethlehem, moves to his great step from the royalty of heaven to the earth, then talks about his life, his death on Calvary and His anticipated second coming.  A wonderful Christocentric theology. The chorus is a simple, uncomplicated response to all of this. You cannot ask for more from a carol.

Hope your Christmas is Christ-centred and God-filled. Here’s a link to the carol to assist you. 

Have a listen here

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