My Favourite Carols

I really enjoyed this morning's service (Sunday 27th December), and two of the featured carols would be on my "favourites" list, namely "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" and "In the Bleak Midwinter".  I would also add another Christina Rossetti carol "Love Came Down at Christmas" among my favourites.  And at least with the online services we can sing along with no-one to tell us off!

But the one I've chosen is "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne and Thy Kingly Crown".  Like "Love Came Down at Christmas" it's not often sung these days - in fact I'm not even sure if it's in the Methodist hymn book "Singing the Faith".  It is in "Baptist Praise and Worship", and one Christmas I managed to persuade the minister to include it, but we never sang it again so it obviously didn't catch on!  But I was pleased to see it quoted by the guest writer of my Salvation Army study notes "Words of Life" on Christmas Day, and he quoted its number so it's in "The Song Book of The Salvation Army".  Staying ecumenical, the version below is taken from "Congregational Praise", as I was christened in the Congregational Church and attended there until my family moved house when I was eight.

I wouldn't class it as my all-time favourite, but the reason I've chosen it is because it's rarely sung.  In "normal" years, we hear the popular carols many times during Advent and Christmas - in shopping malls and Carol Services, but the less-well known ones rarely get a look-in.  And if Christians aren't going to sing them, then who is?  And who is going to teach the older carols to the next generations?

For a number of years I compiled the Order of Service for the workplace Carol Service and would try to include at least one carol where the words were new - at least to the non-Christians - but the tune was a familiar one so everyone could make a stab at joining in.  I find both Christians and non-Christians alike sing the familiar carols so often that they/I don't focus on the words, whereas if the words are new to you, you have to concentrate, and thus take on board their full meaning.

Attending George Thomas's funeral last week reminded me that I'd chosen this "Christmas" hymn for my funeral service.  I was thinking that, should I die in the run-up to Christmas, it would be appropriate to sing it - otherwise people might think it a strange choice for a funeral.  But, even though it starts off with Jesus's birth in Bethlehem, it proceeds to tell the story of Jesus's life and mission. When we get to the final verse, especially the last two lines, you'll see why I've chosen it for my funeral. I realise this is risky as many of my non-Christian family and friends won't know it, but I hope enough of my fellow Christians out-live me to lead the singing, assuming I survive long enough to have a funeral at a time when we're allowed to sing together in churches once again!

So here, in case you don't know it, or don't have a copy to hand, is that "Christmas" hymn - in the original version.  I've made a note in my funeral file that that's the version I want, not the more modern "Baptist" version that changes many of the words, so you don't have to sing too many archaic "thou"s and avoid the word "sod" which in modern hands might raise a snigger! 

It was written in the nineteenth century by Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliott and the tune I want (not sure there is any other) is "Margaret" by Timothy Richard Matthews.

Thou didst leave Thy throne
And Thy kingly crown
When Thou camest to earth for me,
But in Bethlehem's home
Was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven's arches rang
When the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth
Cam'st Thou, Lord, on earth,
And in great humility:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee.

The foxes found rest,
And the bird its nest,
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod,
O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Thou camest, O Lord,
With the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But, with mocking scorn,
And with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
Thy cross is my only plea.

When heaven's arches ring,
And her choirs shall sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home,
Saying, "Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee!"
And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

 


First published on: 7th January 2021