Popular Christmas Hymns
Hymns, whose origin dates back to ancient Greece, are a type of spiritual or religious song that is used to express praise and exalted forms of adulation in a church setting, typically during mass. While in antiquity they where performed to honor various gods as well as nature, they eventually found their way into Gregorian chorals and Christian liturgy. Hymns are not bound by any set rhythm, rime, or stanzas unlike other types of songs, and are closely related to odes. For centuries, they have marked one of the high points of Christmas mass, often with the whole church singing along. Today, some of the best known and most cherished Christmas songs are actually old hymns that bring Christians around the world together, rejoicing in the miracle of the Christ child's birth.
Popular Christmas Hymns By Theme
Angels Singing of Christ’s Birth & Shepherds In the Fields
Angels, From The Realms Of Glory: Composed by James Montgomery in the early 1800's, this splendid one tells of angels coming down to earth, proclaiming the birth of Jesus the Messiah and asking sages, shepherds, saints, and all the common people to worship the newborn king. The lyrics of this one speak of a deep joy and a strong sense of hope brought about by god's glory.
Angels We Have Heard On High: Originally written in French as "Les anges dans nos campagnes", is based on the gospel of Luke and was translated by the English Bishop James Chadwick in 1862. It describes the joyous songs of angels and shepherds as they invite the world to come to Bethlehem and pay their respects to the Lord. Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Hark! The Herald Angles Sing: One of the most well known, it was composed in 1739 by Charles Wesley and later modified to the current version by Felix Mendelssohn and George Whitefield, evolving from a rather somber affair to the cheerful version we know now. It bears witness to the miracle of the virgin birth, asking nations to rise and sinners finding god through the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. It is a passionate call to worship and praise the Lord, and to acknowledge him as the one who saved us from ourselves and absolved us of our sins.
The First Noel: This traditional English hymn is thought to have been written in the 1500's with several versions published in old songbooks, including an English, Cornish, and American version. It chronicles the events at Bethlehem surrounding the birth of Jesus and how the Three Holy Kings, guided by a brightly shining star arrived at the manger with precious gifts of myrrh, gold, and frankincense, fit only for a king.
Jesus In His Manger
Away In A Manger: It's uncertain who wrote it, but it's thought to be a collaboration from the late 1800's. It paints a touching image of the sweet baby Jesus swaddled in a manger on a bed of hay, his parents being too poor to afford a crib for him. The lyrics almost read like a plea for Jesus to always love and protect his flock.
Gentle Mary Laid Her Child: Joseph Cook wrote this soothing song in 1919, giving praise to the Lord. Arriving on this earth in poverty as an unknown but innocent child born to a virgin, the world soon gets word of the miracle that happened in Bethlehem – the son of god has revealed himself to man.
What Child Is This: Written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix and set to “Greensleeves”, this jubilant carol celebrates Christ and his birth as he is heralded by angels and lovingly watched over by shepherds, showered with gifts, and bringing salvation to mankind. A glorious Christmas hymn that epitomizes the festive mood of this very special event.
Jesus Is Born
Go Tell It On The Mountain: Popular since at least the mid-1800's, it has its roots in the Afro-American religious tradition of the gospel, which is performed by a choir and the attending audience with much gusto and passion during Sunday mass. In it, we are asked to spread the word about the birth of Christ the savior so the whole world can hear about it and rejoice in the infinite glory of his love, like all good Christians do.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: This hymn is thought to have been written as early as the 1500's, showing man that he has nothing to fear, not even the devil, because an innocent virgin has delivered Christ, our Lord and savior who will redeem us all of our sins and transgressions. Listeners are asked to celebrate the occasion with brotherly love and much cheer.
Joy To the World: Based on the bible's psalm 98, “Joy To The World” was written in 1719 by the British religious poet Isaac Watts to proclaim the birth and coming of Christ. It has become one of the most popular songs of adoration, and is filled with an infectious spirit of unbound joy upon the infinite glory and righteousness of Jesus, leaving no doubt as to who the true savior is.