Two years ago I posted a Pastor’s Confession on my blog about my love for Christmas. You can search for it here in the archive.
Just a day or two ago I posted a revised version on my sister-in-law’s blog, here. (She is also giving away a chance to win one of my books The Hidden Life, for just a few hours, so don’t miss it!)
It’s been a different Christmas for us here at the Megill household with me working multiple jobs, Lorien attending college and working, Lee having a boyfriend, Joshua dancing every single moment he can, choir, drama, Josiah in school, selling the house, (No Josiah is not selling the house) and just generally all being crazy busier than we’ve ever been! In some ways it hasn’t felt like Christmas here at the Megill house yet, so it’s time to kick it into gear I say! I decided this year to follow that up with a series of posts about my favorite Christmas things.
Today I start with my favorite Carol.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
This carol was written by the excellent poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863. Like the best carols, it was not written consciously as a christmas carol. Instead it was a poem reflecting his own struggle with Christmas tragedies in his life: the loss of his wife, and his son, and of course the Civil War which seemed to be the devastation of the country he loved. In many ways it is the tale of a man’s loss of faith and his recovery of it. The christmas bells seemed to him to mock the true point of Christmas. Where in such trials was God? Where in the midst of a civil war was the Prince of Peace? It’s a beautiful poem with beautiful words. It remained a poem for about a decade until John Baptiste Calkin set it to a melody he had previously used.
Many people have recorded this version. Steven Curtis Chapman (one of my favorite recording musicians) has recorded this version, here:
Johnny Marks (author of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) wrote new original music for the poem in 1950. Of the three presented here, this is probably my least favorite version, but it is also the one I heard most growing up, so maybe I’m just tired of it. Here’s my favorite female vocalist (in the “not related to me” category), Karen Carpenter, singing this version.
There have been many recordings and versions of this since. Some of the others I like I posted in previous years (Brian Duncan would be a favorite of mine not posted here this year, but you can search my archives for it.) The truth is I love the poem most of all. I love the rhythm, the craftsmanship, and of course the substance of it. I love how it tells of Longfellows own decade long struggle to come to grips and I love the quiet resolution he reaches even in the midst of tragedy. Currently my absolute favorite is the following recorded by Casting Crowns which feels somehow most right to me, most fitting for the lyrics they embody.
Next post (tomorrow?): My favorite Christmas Movie. (Wow that’s a tough one, I can hardly wait to find out what it will be.)
What’s your favorite Christmas Carol? Go ahead and let me know in a comment.