“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'” (Luke 2:13-14 ESV) This hymn describes the awesome spectacle this angelic concert must have been, and elaborates on its meaning – exultation over the arrival of the King of kings. In the final stanza, we join in that song as it echoes through our time, and we declare the good news of our Savior's birth.Text
Josiah G. Holland is the author of this text, which first appeared in W. T. Giffe's The Brilliant, a Sunday school songbook published in 1874. It did not appear in a hymnal until 1905, when it was published in the Methodist Hymnal. Most hymnals include all four stanzas with little to no alteration. The first two stanzas are about the song of the angels that announced to the world the birth of the new King of kings. The second halves of both are nearly identical. The third stanza speaks to the far-reaching implications of this birth of the King. These three also mention the star (Matthew 2:1-12). The response of humankind is the theme of the final stanza, as “we greet in his cradle our Savior and King.”Tune
The most common tune for this text, CHRISTMAS SONG, was written in 1904 by Karl P. Harrington, who was a music editor for the 1905 Methodist Hymnal, where the text was first published. Three musical settings were given for that text, of which CHRISTMAS SONG was the second. Harrington gave expressive tempo markings for this tune, indicating that the first half of the tune was to be sung Andante con moto, followed by a short ritardando, and the second half at piu mosso, with a longer ritardando to close the song.
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