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Good Christian Men Rejoice!

An Adaptation of a Funschooling Unit
by Karen Caroe
Songs that will be studied:
INTRODUCTION:
This unit is an adaptation of Karen Caroe’s Funschooling Unit, “Good Christian Men Rejoice!”, found at http://hometown.aol.com/MomCaroe/printcarols.html . This adapted study of fifteen classic Christmas hymns is intended to be flexible so that you can do as many or as few as desired, in as much depth as you like. The study of even one of these beautiful songs will bless your holiday season and help focus your family on the reason for the season--our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

As you study each hymn, listen to it and sing or follow along with the lyrics and music that you can find at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/. For biographical and background, most of the song’s writers may be looked up at CyberHymnal’s website, http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/bio.htm.

You may wish to compile a notebook for your Christmas study with sections for each song studied, including copies of the lyrics. To begin, you may want to copy several verses of Scripture dealing with praising God through song. Several Bible search engines are available at http://bible.crosswalk.com/. These verses could be used as copywork or as keyboarding practice with your computer’s art or word processing program.

You may wish to add more information to your study of each song. There are many books to choose from in this category. Adding resources would allow you to add performance, art appreciation, hands-on art projects, music, and more to your study. A quick online search of the holdings of the Harnett County Public Library yielded the following:

  • Hark! the Herald Angels Sing by Barrie Carson Turner
    ISBN #071120814X
    A collection of eighteen Christmas carols, arranged for piano and recorder, include a pictorial index with information about paintings and artists from the National Gallery in London.
  • Sing Noel: Christmas Carols by Jane Yolen, et al
    ISNB #1563974207
    A collection of thirty-four Christmas carols from around the world traces the history of each of the Yuletide songs.

    This is by no means an exhaustive listing of appropriate books that are available, nor are the above books recommended as 'mom-approved'. They have not been examined personally and so have not been screened for nudity. It is, however, just a sample of the resources that are available to further your study.

    Biographical sketches of each author, musician or other people mentioned should be kept and filed in your notebook. They should include the person’s name; nationality; date of birth; date of death; was the person a Christian; what the person is most remembered for; how the person’s life affected the world today; what important positions the person held, if any; what kind of education the person had; any other pertinent or interesting information about this person.

    You may want to keep an overall timeline of the order in which the songs were written, along with the births and deaths of the people who wrote them. Be forewarned that the majority of the songs will be within a couple of hundred years, so leave lots of room from about 1700 to the present.

    You may also want to label an outline map with the songs that came from each country. It will be interesting to see where the most songs came from…and to try to figure out why that might be!

    Scripture: Psalm 100
    Vocabulary: carol; hymn
    The word “carol” originally referred to a dance being performed in a circle. Gradually, words were introduced to these dance songs and the spectators became involved as well. Later, the term “carol” came to be applied more to verses of song than dance. Christmas carols refer to those songs that tell the story of the wondrous event of our Savior’s birth. Christmas hymns are those that address the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit.

    Activities:

    (1.) Make a list of the songs that will be studied in this unit and categorize them as either carols or hymns.

    (2.) Go to www.puzzlemaker.com and make a puzzle for your child using the titles of the songs. Many different types of puzzles are available including acrostics, word searches, crosswords and more.
    (3.) Play "Name That Tune!" or Charades with your family members each choosing their favorite Christmas songs.
    (4.) Print the Christmas Song Puzzle and see how many you can get right. Be aware that the puzzle is made up of songs, both religious and secular. If you would prefer to use only the religious songs, feel free to copy and paste the entire puzzle into another document and delete the songs that you would rather not use. The answers are listed at the bottom of the webpage as a courtesy (and to prevent homeschoolers from having to call me in the middle of the night because they can't figure out what the answer to one of the questions is! LOL)

    Information sheet to be filled out for each Christmas song. You may either make a template on the computer so that you are able to print one sheet for each song, or you may have the student write by hand the following information:

    Title:

    Original language:

    Alternate titles:

    Date written:

    Lyrics written by:

    Music written by:

    Translated by:

    History of the song:

    Relevant scripture:

    add original artwork or clip art to illustrate the song)

    Good Christian Men Rejoice!
    Scripture: Isaiah 49:13

    This song is known as a macaronic carol because it combines two or more languages (German and Latin). It was originally a 14th century Latin carol and was translated by John M. Neale (1818-1866). The original Latin title of this song is In Dulci Jubilio which means ‘in sweet shouting’. Sing the song and try to learn the first verse in both English and Latin.

    Activities:

    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.

    (2.) Discuss what it means to rejoice. Write out a few Bible verses that deal with the topic of rejoicing, why we are to do it, how we are to do it, and so on.

    (3.) Make a poster announcing the birth of Jesus or write a radio/TV news flash with the announcement.

    (4.) Define any unfamiliar words from the lyrics of the song.

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

    Scripture: Luke 1:32-33

    This song is a Latin hymn from the 12th century and was translated by John M. Neale. This song was originally sung in the medieval church and is actually a collection of ‘antiphons.’ Antiphons are short musical statements that were sung for the week of services just before Christmas Eve. Each one of the antiphons greets the Messiah with one of the titles given to Him throughout the Old Testament.

    Activities:

    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Select several of the names of Jesus from the song and talk about them. Find the Scripture verse that corresponds to the name. Make a table of this information including what you think the verse means.
    (3.) Make a poster or collage with the names of Jesus on it. Place this into your notebook.
    (4.) Define any unfamiliar words from the lyrics. Look over the Latin lyrics of the song. Do you see any Latin words for which you recognize some English derivatives? If so, write the Latin and English words with the meanings.

    Angels from the Realms of Glory

    Scripture: Luke 2:9

    This song was written by James Montgomery. He was orphaned at age six in the West Indies where his parents were missionaries. He was basically shuffled from one house to the next without really having any place to call ‘home.’ James was what we would call a political activist. He was a newspaper man and a prolific writer. He spoke out for justice and reform on many social issues. He was honored as the most important citizen of Sheffield, England from 1883 until his death. This carol was composed when he was 45 and studied the Scriptural account of the Christmas Story while he was trying to find something to put in the Christmas Eve issue of his newspaper. The music was composed by Henry Smart, a blind musician.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.

    (2.) How was Mr. Montgomery’s life like Luke 9:58, “And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
    (3.) Identify and define unfamiliar words from the lyrics of the song. Some possible words to define are sage and natal star.
    (4.) What group is each of the five stanzas about? Try to find Scripture verses to apply to each stanza.

    Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

    Scripture: John 10:10
    This song was written by Emily E. S. Elliot and it is slightly different than most Christmas songs. It includes not only Christ’s birth, but His life on earth, His suffering and death, and the triumph of His resurrection and His soon returning. Emily Elliot wrote this song to teach children the truth of the advent season and the nativity. It was meant to be used only in her father’s church, St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Brighton, England, but it soon became a favorite virtually everywhere. Emily was very active in rescue mission work and the Sunday School movement of the time.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Note how the message of each verse is portrayed. Talk about the word “but’ which is a conjunction and is used to contrast the two parts of each sentence.
    (3.) Find out the original purpose of Sunday School.
    (4.) Define any unfamiliar words from this song. Are there fewer of them than in other songs which you have studied? If so, why might this be? What is the definition of nativity and advent?

    Silent Night

    This great text, written by Joseph Mohr on Christmas Eve, 1818, was borne of a great need. Joseph Mohr was the pastor of a small Austrian parish church. On a cold Christmas Eve, he was dismayed to learn that mice had chewed the bellows of the church organ. Thinking of having a Christmas Eve service without beautiful music was almost more than he could think of. To get his mind off his troubles, he went out on his pastoral calls. During his visits he was called to a humble cottage to welcome and bless a newborn baby. Uplifted by the new life born on Christmas Eve, Joseph’s spirits began to soar. As he walked on for more visits, his mind composed lines to a poem that was inspired by Christ’s birth on the same evening so many years before. He hurried home, wrote down the words and took them to the church organist. The organist knew only three guitar chords but he wrote a simple little melody nonetheless. Imagine the joy in that little congregation as the two men sang, for the very first time, this now beloved carol.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) This Christmas song has its own website! http://silentnight.web.za/ is filled with translations and history. You might want to see what kinds of interesting tidbits that you can come up with about this song. Memorize a couple of the more fascinating facts and amaze your family at the dinner table tonight.
    (3.) Look up Bible verses concerning light and stars. How did God reveal His plan of salvation in the stars and all of creation?
    (4.) Define any words from the song that you do not know the meaning of.
    (5.) Write your own poem that could be used as a carol or a hymn.
    Away in a Manger

    Scripture: Luke 2
    This precious song, probably one of the first that most children learn, has an undocumented history. As with many favorite carols and hymns, this one was thought to have its origins in Germany. For a long time it was known as “Luther’s Cradle Hymn” and was thought to have been written by Martin Luther for his own children. Most historians today discount that story as pure fiction. In 1835, stanzas one and two appeared in the Little Children’s Book published in Philadelphia. The third stanza was written by Dr. John T. McFarland when he needed an extra stanza for a children’s program at his church.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define any words from the song that you do not know the meaning of.
    (3.) Read the Bible account of Christ’s birth from Luke 2.
    Joy to the World

    Scripture: Psalm 98
    This incredible hymn by Isaac Watts is only one of his many thousands of hymns and songs. His start in song writing came about as a challenge made by his father in an attempt to stifle Isaac’s teen-age complaining. What was this 15 year old boy complaining about? He was complaining about the poor quality of hymns that were sung in his church! He took on his father’s challenge and his hymns were an instant success. Sunday after Sunday Isaac wrote and presented new hymns to the congregation. He was a preacher-poet and incredibly well-loved by his congregation. At the age of 38, his declining health required him to leave the pastorate. He went for a ‘short’ visit to stay with friends and left 38 years later! During that time he devoted himself to writing hymns based on David’s Psalms. Joy to the World came about as he meditated on Psalm 98.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Browse through a hymn book or search through CyberHymnal (http://tch.simplenet.com/bio/bio.htm) and see how many hymns and carols were authored by Isaac Watt. List the ones that you recognize. Listen to at least one that you do not know well.
    (3.) Define any words in the lyrics with which you are unfamiliar.
    (4.) Isaac Watt was used by God even when he was a teenaged boy. Find examples from the Bible of God using children.
    (5.) An anagram is a sort of puzzle in which you take the letters to a word and use them to make a saying. Two popular examples are: GRACE = God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense and JOY = Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. Anagram your name.

    Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

    This song was written by one of the most prolific song writers in church history, Charles Wesley. It was first published in a book entitled Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord in 1744. The tune, known as “Hyfrydol,” was composed by a 20 year old Welshman named Rowland H. Prichard in about 1830. This tune is used in many hymns.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define any unfamiliar words from the lyrics of the song.
    (3.) Look up the word “anticipation” in the dictionary. We, as Christians, need to keep a sense of anticipation in our lives. In the Old Testament, Israel anxiously awaited the coming of the Messiah. In the same way, we should anticipate our Lord’s soon returning. Make a list of the things that you anticipate.
    (4.) Search through the Bible for some Old Testament prophecies concerning the birth of the Christ-child and His earthly ministry. Can you find the places in the New Testament where each prophecy was fulfilled? You can make a table with this information by using the following as headings under which you can list your findings:
    Old Testament Prophecy, Scripture Reference, New Testament Fulfillment, Scripture Reference
    Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

    Scripture: Luke 2
    It is difficult to get away from songs by Charles Wesley simply because he wrote so many of them! This one, however, has a really interesting history. First, it is important to realize that Christmas carols and hymns as we know them now were abolished by the English Puritan Parliament in 1627 as being part of a ‘worldly festival’. The Puritans considered Christmas to be a secular celebration. This song was one of the few written during the 17th and early 18th centuries. In Wesley’s original text, the first line read “Hark! How all the welkin rings, glory to the King of Kings.” The word ‘welkin’ is an Old English word meaning ‘the vault of heaven’. The famous Reverend George Whitfield changed the first line to the one we now sing. That final change was made in 1753. The music was composed by a Messianic Jew named Felix Mendelssohn. Originally composed in 1840 to celebrate the anniversary of Gutenburg’s printing press, it was not until 1855 that the tune and Wesley’s poem were put together.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define unfamiliar words from the lyrics.
    (3.) What is a Messianic Jew? What is the difference between them and Orthodox Jews? Between them and Christians?
    (4.) Look at the truths in all the stanzas. What does it mean by “Mild He lay His glory by”? How often do we fuss at having to lay things aside? Compare your concerns with all Jesus laid aside to be born to die for us. What are you willing to lay aside to bring more glory to Him in your life?
    (5.) Starting with the angel that appeared to Mary to announce that she would bear the Christ-child, how many angel “sightings” are there in the Christmas story?
    (6.) Almost all of the songs in this unit began as poems to honor God or the Christ-child. The actual music was often composed by someone else in a different time period. The songwriter and composer usually did not live in the same time period or country, but if they did, they may not have known each other. If you wrote a poem when you studied Silent Night, try finding a piece of music that ‘fits’ it…or write your own music.

    O Little Town of Bethlehem

    Scripture: Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4
    This song was written by Phillip Brooks and it is unique in that it is one of the few “American” Christmas songs. Phillip Brooks, one of America’s outstanding ministers of the past century, visited the Holy Land in 1865. He went to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. When looking for something new to present to his congregation a few years later, he recalled his awesome experience in Bethlehem and wrote this song specifically for the children of the congregation.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define unfamiliar words in the lyrics.
    (3.) Read the Scripture verses listed with this song. Which one is the prophecy? Which is the fulfillment of the prophecy?
    (4.) Make a picture for your notebook of the town of Bethlehem. Show the sleepy town, the manger, the star…and strive for a sense of quietness.

    While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night

    Scripture: Luke 2
    This song was written by Nahum Tate. The history of this song is not a pleasant one. Feel free to skip the historical study of this song if you like. Mr. Tate was the son of an Irish clergyman. He was educated at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and was appointed Poet Laureate of England during the reign of William and Mary. Unfortunately, his heart does not seem to have been into the truth behind this song. He lived his life as a drunkard and a spendthrift. He died at the age of 63 in a debtor’s refuge in London. The popularity of this song probably has more to do with the melody, which was adapted from a song by Handel.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define any unfamiliar words in the lyrics.
    (3.) How does “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it,” relate to the life of Nahum Tate? Can God use people even if they are not doing what He wants them to do?
    (4.) Read the Bible account of the angels’ appearance to the shepherds. Illustrate this account for your notebook.
    (5.) One of the tools used by shepherds is a crook. Read “The Legend of the Candy Cane” at www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Alley/4373/legends.html. What is the symbolism of the shape and coloration of the candy cane? Make a copy of this legend for your notebook and illustrate it.

    It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

    This is another Christmas song to which America can proudly lay claim. It was written by Edmund H. Sears. He was a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and spent most of his life pastoring small churches in the east.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define any unfamiliar words in the lyrics.
    (3.) What is the theme of this song? This is one of the few Christmas songs about the gift of Peace that God gave on that first Christmas. It is a message of reconciliation that involves Peace with God, Peace with our fellow man, and Peace with ourselves. Look up peace and reconciliation and write their definitions. Why was it necessary for God to reconcile the world to Himself? Why do we need Peace?
    (4.) Locate areas of the world that are in turmoil with wars or civil unrest. Why do you suppose that these places are like they are? What may be the reason for the conflict? What needs to happen for the conflicts to be resolved?
    (5.) Read Matthew 5:9. Why does God tell us this? What is the blessing that He bestows upon peacemakers?

    The First Noel

    This is an Old English carol written before 1823 and there is almost nothing known about its origins. However, in situations like this, it is fun to learn the many ideas and legends that get attached to the song. We seem to have a need to be able to explain things to our own satisfaction when, in reality, the truth can not always be certain.
    Two separate histories are offered for your comparison. The first is that the song had its rise in France in the 15th century. “Noel” is a French word from the Latin, meaning “birthday.” It is thought that wandering troubadours took the song across the Channel to England. Under the English form “Nowell”, the song became a great favorite in the west of England as the village gathered on Christmas Eve to burn the Yule log. Remember back that at this time, carols were thought to be ‘popular’ music and were sung outside the church and not in it. The repetition of “Noel” in the refrain is equivalent to our singing “Happy Birthday” to someone.
    The second possible history is that the song came from the French but that is stands for “a shout of joy.” It is, however, considered an English song. The English had (and still have) a special way with abbreviations. Over the years, a phrase would be reduced to one word as people began to say it more often and faster. After passing through one generation, the next generation would remember only the shortened version. Such is the case with “Nowell”. Tradition says that the English greeted each other on Christmas morning with the phrase, “Now all is well”. Christ had come into the world; now all is well with the world because Jesus is born! Over the years as the phrase passed from mouth to mouth, family to family, people began to say “Now Well! Now Well!” This eventually became shortened to “Nowell”.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define any unfamiliar words in the lyrics.
    (3.) How do we shorten words? What is the likely origin of the word ‘goodbye’? What are some words which we shorten today?
    (4.) What were troubadours and what was their purpose?

    I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

    This is another great American song. The poem was written by beloved American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow, sadly, was probably not a Christian. He was Unitarian and held to a strong belief in God’s goodness and concern for people. This required a strong faith as Longfellow watched the cruelties of the American Civil War. He was the most influential poet of his time so this song brought hope, courage and renewed strength to Americans on both sides of the war. The poem was written in 1864 for the Sunday School of Unitarian Church of the Disciples in Boston. We usually sing five stanzas but, if you can find an original text, there are seven stanzas. The two stanzas that we usually omit contain strong references to war. The five that we now sing offer the hopeful message that God is still in control and, in His time, the righteous will triumph and He will bring peace and goodwill again. The bold but beautiful ringing of Christmas bells should remind us of that hope.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define any unfamiliar words in the lyrics.
    (3.) Find three verses in the Bible that fill you with hope. Write them out and place them in your notebook.
    (4.) During the Civil War, families were separated, had little money for gifts or celebrations, and created many new traditions out of necessity. See if you can find out about any of these traditions.

    We Three Kings

    Scripture: Matthew 2:11
    The words and music to this song were written by John H. Hopkins, an Episcopalian minister from Pennsylvania. He wrote many tunes and hymns in his lifetime.
    Activities:
    (1.) Fill in the information sheet and biographical sketch(es). If you are keeping a timeline and map, add the information from this song to them now.
    (2.) Define any unfamiliar words in the lyrics.
    (3.) Although there is no Scriptural basis for there being only three kings, we typically celebrate in this manner because of the three gifts that were brought to Jesus. Study the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the kings brought to Christ. All of these items are symbolic of His ministry and death. What do each of these things mean?
    (4.) We can learn a great deal from the actions of the kings. They were persistent in following the star, they responded to the birth of the Messiah in worship, and they returned to their homeland to tell others of the miracle of Christ’s birth. Write a paragraph or two on how you can be more persistent in worshipping Christ and in telling others of His birth and sacrifice for them.
    (5.) Look at a map and see if you can determine a possible route that the wisemen took from the Orient to the location where they found Jesus.