It’s Time for New Christmas Songs

The following Christmas songs come from the Trinity Hymnal save the last three which come from the Baptist Hymnal. Songs have served as a source of tradition for the church over the centuries. And not only have they served as a source of tradition, but that tradition has given to us a cultural language. Wherever the church is, and until the coming of Christ, the church is a subculture of the greater culture, whether national or global. And like every other subculture the church has its own language, its own lingo.

As of late though there has been a call to change the language of our ecclesiastical parlance because it is not like the words we regularly use in day-to-day interactions. What is more, some of the words found in the traditional language of the church are hard to understand or are thought to be understood but are not. As a result, there has been a call by few to change the churches version of the Bible. Advocating for such a change not only asks for a new version of the Bible, which is worthy of robust discussion in itself, it is also attempting to change the language of the ecclesiastical subculture of the English-speaking world. Which is problematic in itself, but what makes matters worse is that the state of the Bible in America is one that is constantly shifting to this or that version so there really is no longer a common parlance among English-speaking ecclesiastical subcultures.

All that said, most of us are still going to sing or hear sung, if you haven’t already, one or two songs listed below. I love Christmas songs. I think we should sing some of them all year. But the fact is that they are full archaisms, false friends, and in one case, we have the beautiful yet translationally unadorned Latin. To demonstrate this fact, I give you 14 songs from the hymn book which have the very things so many complain about in the King James Version. In America we complain about the Bible but not about our songs.

The format below is: Name of Song – questionable word, x + number of times it appears in the song [which verse it is found in]

1.) O Come All Ye Faithful – thee x2 [4] 
2.) O Little Town of Bethlehem – met [1]
3.) While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks – meanly [4] 
4.) It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – cloven [2], bards [4] 
5.) Good Christian Men Rejoice – ye x3 [1, 2, 3] 
6.) God Rest You Merry Gentlemen – affright [3], afeeding [4], tidings [2, 4, chorus] 
7.) Silent Night – yon [1], tender [1] 
8.) Angels From the Realms of Glory – yonder [2], natal [3] 
9.) Hark The Herald Angels Sing – hark [title, 1, chorus], herald [title, 1], hail x2 [2, 3], mild [1, 3] 
10.) O Come to My Heart Lord Jesus – dost [1], camest [1], didst [2],  commest [5], callest [5] 
11.) All Glory Laud and Honor – laud [title, 1, 3], comest [1] 
12.) The First Noel – Noel 
13.) Angels We Have Heard on High – Jubilee [2], strains x2 [1, 2], tidings [2], excelsis Deo [Latin] x2 
14.) Joy To the World – prove 

Two last notes. 1.) Some or many of these words may be known to some and some or many of you may not. Who is to decide when too many people misunderstand too much of Angels We Have Heard On High and therefore we need a new translation? 2.) There is a bit of sad hilarity here in that our Protestant song services are more standardized than the Bible we read. Whether it be a screen, a song page, or a hymn book we all read the same words, but not with the Bible. What song leader would hand out multiple hymn books with different words and different numbering? What song leader would put one set of words on one screen and then a slightly different set of words on screen two and then on screen three put a dynamic equivalence translation of screen one? Thus we conclude, don’t touch my songs or my song service, but you may play with the Bible at will so long as you are trained and have a Ph.D.

Blessings and Merry Christmas.

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