I am not ashamed to admit that the season of Advent and Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love the decorations, the lights on the houses, and the music playing in the background wherever you go. Through the mire and muck of the commercialism that has become Christmas, there is still the clear and unavoidable message of the birth of our incarnate Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the resulting joy, hope, peace, and life that comes through faith in Him.
I have, over time, curated an extensive list of Christmas music that I start playing while doing the dishes on Thanksgiving Day. My list has just about everything ranging from the old European Carols and classic hymns to the more contemporary Christmas Jingles. I remember my grandparents having the Time-Life multi-album Christmas Treasury which they’d play when we’d visit for the holiday, and from that album I’ve just been adding more and more of the Christmas Songs.
Over the next few weeks, I thought I’d share here in the blog just of few of my favorite, more obscure Christmas Carols, with a little of their history, and some links so that you can listen to them too.
Es ist ein’ Ros’ entsprungen
(Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming)
With it’s text taken from the imagery of Isaiah 11:1
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming is one of the few, really good Advent Hymns that captures the hope and expectation of the coming Messiah. The words and the music work well together, conveying the longing of God’s people for deliverance.
I recently found this article on the hymn from 2015 in The Atlantic Online,
“Pull up any choral recording, slide over to the penultimate phrase—“amid the cold of winter”—and listen hard to that last word. Between the first and second syllable of winter, the minor chord blossoms into major. I mean this seriously: What else is there to say? Here is the chill of winter transfigured into an ardent flame; here is theology as harmony. “Lo, How a Rose” even includes an extended pastoral analogy and an allusion to the Book of Isaiah. I’m not a Christian, but I’m at a loss as to what more you could want from sacred music. Kazoos?”https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/12/lo-how-a-rose-eer-blooming/421518/
(The rest of the article is an excellent read. I encourage you to follow the link and learn more.)
The original version of the hymn may have come from the German Rhineland, with at least 22 stanzas, appearing in a German Hymnal in 1599. Now it is usually sung with just 2 or three stanzas, typically as an a cappella choral piece.
Here are a couple of links to the carol. The first is from the Pitt Men’s Glee Club. The words are listed below.
Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind:
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright
She bore to men a Savior
When half spent was the night.
This Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens every load
Words are Public Domain
Alternatively, I’ve also included a recording by Sufjan Stevens, which gives the carol more of a folk/bluegrass feel.