Tag Archives: Joy to the World

Christmas Music, Part 20 – O Come, O Come Emmanuel (again)

The origins of popular Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” extend back to the 9th century. Photo and Canva illustration by Crystal Caviness, United Methodist Communications

When United Methodists sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” few likely know this popular Advent hymn’s origins span across 1200 years.

The story of how Latin vespers chanted by monks in the 800s found itself recorded in the 21st century by the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Wynonna Judd follows a circuitous and mysterious history through Europe.

The words

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” hearkens back to medieval times when Christmas Vespers were sung, primarily in monasteries, from December 17 to December 23, a tradition which continues to this day in Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Using hymns called “O” Antiphons, the verses, sung in Latin, all began with “O.” (The word, “antiphon” means psalm or anthem.)

Englishman John Mason Neale first translated the “O” Antiphons from Latin to English in the early 1850s. Neale was an Anglican priest, hymn writer and prize-winning poet who was influenced by the Oxford Movement.

Said to be a high church traditionalist, Neale eschewed the hymns of popular 18th century composer Isaac Watts, who wrote more than 600 hymns, including “Joy to the World.” Neale longed to return the Church to its liturgical roots and was known for translating ancient Greek and Latin hymns into English.

In addition to authoring “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” Neal also wrote “Good King Wenceslas,” “Good Christian Men, Rejoice,” and the Palm Sunday hymn, “All Glory, Laud and Honor.”

Fun fact: Neale’s first version of the hymn began with the words, “Draw nigh, draw night, Emmanuel.”

The music

In 1851, Thomas Helmore is credited with pairing the familiar tune we sing today, called “Veni Emmanuel,” with the English translation of the words when he published “Hymnal Noted.” At the time, Helmore attributed the music to “a French Missal in the National Library, Lisbon.” Additional details of the melody’s origins remained a mystery for more than 100 years. In 1966, Mary Berry, a British musicologist, discovered a 15th-century manuscript of the melody at the National Library of France. The original composition, according to Berry’s writings, is a burial processional chant with the words, “Bone Jesu dulcis cunctis.” The author is unknown.

Though the “Veni Emmanuel” tune is the most common, alternative versions exist, particularly in German.

The popularity

When Helmore published “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in “Hymnal Noted,” he unknowingly set the song on its trajectory to distinction.

Helmore’s version was included in “Hymns Ancient and Modern,” edited by William Henry Monk, published in 1861 and considered the Church of England’s official hymnal. By the end of the 1800s, more than three-quarters of English churches used the volume, making “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” part of the Christian church’s tradition.

Across the decades, translators tweaked the verses. The version we sing today, including the one found as no. 211 in the United Methodist Hymnal, combines Neale’s translation with revisions made in 1941 for the Episcopal “Hymnal” and translations by Henry Sloane Coffin, a Presbyterian minister and social activist.

In addition to serving as an Christmastime standard both in Christian and secular society (dozens of popular music acts have recorded versions of the hymn), the verses provide a meaningful devotion for us during the Advent season, a time when we prepare and await the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

Crystal Caviness works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email or at 615-742-5138.

Adapted from


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Christmas Music, Part 2 – Joy To The World


Joy To The World

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King.

Isaac Watts wrote  the words to “Joy to the World” in 1719, based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The hymn originally glorified Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a song celebrating His first coming. Only the second half of Watts’ lyrics are still used today.

The music was adapted and arranged to Watts’ lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839 from an older melody which was then believed to have originated from Handel. The name “Antioch” is generally used for the hymn tune.

As of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.


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Sermon Sunday December 22


Joy from the Inside Out John 15:9-11, Luke 1:39-55

Joy is the GIFT that is given to all the world by Jesus. A promise made not only in his birth but also in His living. But do we really take the joy, live in the joy and share the joy?

As Christmas is only a few days away is it really “Joy To The World?”

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)

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Sermon December 8: Joy Because of a Coming Lord -Psalm 98


Sermon December 8: Joy Because of a Coming Lord –Psalm 98

Joy to the World the Lord is come. Do we really understand what it means to call Jesus Lord? In this season of baby Jesus and sentimentality do we realize the baby came to save but also to judge? Righteousness is the gift of Christmas and that goes beyond trees and presents and googly feelings. Righteousness is what we need and what we will live in during this ADVENT.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp,with the harp and the sound of singing,with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn-shout for joy before the Lord, the King.” (Psalm 98:4-6)


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This Year’s Christmas Music

Christmas Music

Here’s a quick listing of all the Christmas music from last year.

Alfred Burt Carols, Parts 13-15 Dec 13-15, 2012
Angels We Have Heard on High Dec 3, 2012
Auld Lang Syne, Dec 31, 2012
Birthday of a King Dec 23, 2012
Cantata: Night of the Father’s Love, Parts 16-19 Dec 16-19, 2012
Carol of the Bells Dec 5, 2012
Ding Dong Merrily Dec 11, 2012
Good King Wenceslas Dec 26, 2012
Hallelujah Chorus Dec 25, 2012
Hark the Herald Angels Sing Dec 7, 2012
Holly Jolly Christmas Dec 27-31
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day Dec 4, 2012
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear Dec 8, 2012
Johnny Marks Music – Dec 27-31
Joy to the World Dec 2, 2012
Just in time for Christmas Dec 6, 2012
Mary Did You Know Dec 9, 2012
O Holy Night Dec 24, 2012
O Little Town of Bethlehem Dec 20, 2012
Oh come, Oh come, Emmanuel Dec 10, 2012
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree Dec 27-3131
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Dec 27-31
Run Rudolph Run Dec 27-31
Silver and Gold Dec 27-31
Sleigh Ride Dec 1, 2012
Still, Still, Still Dec 12, 2012
The First Noel Dec 21, 2012
We Three Kings Of Orient Are Dec 22, 2012

Possibilities for this year include:

Angels From The Realms Of Glory
Silent Night
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Lo, how a rose
Jesu bambino
Amahl and the Night Visitors
Muppet Christmas
Star of Bethlehem
Believe from the Polar Express
Holly and the ivy
Fum, fum, fum
Nutcracker Suite

Any Suggestions?

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Posted by on December 1, 2013 in Christmas, Christmas Music, Holidays, Posts of Interest


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