Thursday, December 31, 2015

And They Sang Jubilee (Day Seven)

The winter night was dark and still,
The village lay asleep;
In meadows underneath the hill
The shepherds watched their sheep;
The shepherds watched their sheep, good Lord,
But angels watched o’er thee,
While Mary held thee to her heart,
And they sang jubilee.

And now the yule log glows aflame,
And winds without run wild,
We softly speak the bless├Ęd name
They gave thee as a child,
They gave thee as a child, good Lord;
O winter winds, be still!
O Christmas star, shine down again
On meadow and on hill!

O Jesus, look from heav’n above,
And come to join us here:
To fill our home with Christmas love,
Our hearts with Christmas cheer,
Our hearts with Christmas cheer, good Lord;
And happy may we be,
All lads and maidens in our homes
And sailor boys at sea.

O Mary’s Son, for her sweet sake
All womankind is blest;
We praise thy name when first we wake,
And when we go to rest;
And when we go to rest, good Lord,
Our nightly thanks are given
For all good mothers — some on earth,
And some with thine in heav'n.

Louis F. Benson, 1917
C. H. H. Parry, 1904

The Reverend Louis FitzGerald Benson (1855-1930) was a giant in Presbyterian hymnody, the editor of their 1895 denominational hymnal, among others, and a widely-respected authority on hymns and their history.  He graduated from law school at the University of Pennsylvania, and then enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1877.  His law practice lasted only seven years, and he then went on to ordination and parish ministry.

In 1894 he resigned from the Church of the Redeemer in Germantown, PA to work on the new hymnal, and following its publication he continued to work in the same field, joining the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education and the Church’s General Assembly Commission on Worship and Music.  He compiled a number of other hymnbooks and published other works on hymnody, perhaps most notably The English Hymn (1915).  Previously on the blog we have looked at his The Best Church Hymns (1899).  After his death, his personal library became the basis for the Louis F. Benson Collection of Hymnals and Hymnology at Princeton.

Benson wrote hymns of his own, the best-known being For the bread which thou has broken (still under copyright), which continues to appear in hymnals today.  Today's Christmas text is not particularly remembered, though I think it still has something to say to us (the 'sailor boys at sea' notwithstanding).

Seven Years Ago: A year of precious blessings

Six Years Ago: John Robson Sweney

Five Years Ago: William Orcutt Cushing

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