Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

3.3 689
by Ace Collins

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Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you’ve never met, stories you’ve never heard, and meanings you’d never have imagined. The next time you and your family sing "God…  See more details below


Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you’ve never met, stories you’ve never heard, and meanings you’d never have imagined. The next time you and your family sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," you’ll have a new understanding of its message and popular roots. You’ll discover how "Angels from the Realms of Glory," with its sublime lyrics and profound theology, helped usher in a quiet revolution in worship. You’ll learn the strange history of the haunting and powerful "O Holy Night," including the song’s surprising place in the history of modern communications. And you’ll step inside the life of Mark Lowry and find out how he came to pen the words to the contemporary classic "Mary, Did You Know?" Still other songs such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" trace back to mysterious origins--to ninth-century monks, nameless clergy, and unknown commoners of ages past. Joining hands with such modern favorites as "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song," they are part of the legacy of inspiration, faith, tears, love, and spiritual joy that is Christmas. From the rollicking appeal of "Jingle Bells" to the tranquil beauty of "Silent Night," the great songs of Christmas contain messages of peace, hope, and truth. Each in its own way expresses a facet of God’s heart and celebrates the birth of his greatest gift to the world--Jesus, the most wonderful Christmas Song of all.

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Zondervan Publishing
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2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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Angels, from the Realms of Glory'---possibly the best-written, sacred Christmas carol of all time---helped launch a revolution that continues to impact millions of lives today. At its heart is its writer, an Irishman born in November of 1771.
James Montgomery was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland. Montgomery's father, John, was an Irish Moravian missionary. When his parents were called to evangelistic work in the West Indies, the child was sent to a Moravian community in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland. By the time he was seven, James was at Fulneck Seminary, Yorkshire, England. Five years later, the parents James hardly knew died on the mission field.
Perhaps because of the distance from and the tragic loss of his parents, Montgomery never was very interested in his schooling. Flunking out of seminary, he became a baker's assistant for a short time. By the age of twenty, the young man was little more than a vagrant, moving from job to job, often unemployed, and homeless for weeks at a time.
Montgomery's only interest was writing. He spent what little money he had on pencils and paper, taking hours to com-pose poetic odes on everything from loneliness to faith. Though no publisher was interested in his work, the radical editor of the Sheffield Register saw something in the young man's raw talent. For the next two years Montgomery got paid to do what he most loved to do---write stories. He also learned firsthand about the hardships of being an Irishman under English rule. At the age of twenty-three, when the newspaper's owner was run out of town for writing radical editorials concerning Irish freedom, the missionary's son took over the Register.
In an attempt to quell the British government's wrath, Montgomery changed the paper's name to the Sheffield Iris. Yet he didn't change its editorial stance. Just as his parents had strongly rebelled against the strict rules and rituals of England's official church, James was bent on carrying on a written war for Ireland's freedom. At about that time, he also became an active leader in the abolitionist movement. His fiery editorial stance twice landed him in prison. Yet each time he was released, he returned to the Iris and continued his printed war for freedom on all fronts.
When Montgomery was not waging an editorial crusade against English rule and slavery, he was reading his Bible in an attempt to understand the power that motivated his parents' lives and ultimately led to their deaths. In time, his Scripture study and rebellious zeal would blend and send the young man on a new mission. One of the first hints of this change was revealed on Christmas Eve 1816.
Irishmen, who hated all things British, probably carefully studied the newspaper each day, hoping to find some Montgomery- penned passage that would inspire more to join their revolution. It is certain that local government officials who read the Iris often wished to nail the man who was so often a thorn in their side. Yet on December 24, 1816, readers discovered a different stance from the fiery editor. On that day, his editorial did not divide Irish from English, but rather brought everyone who read the Iris closer together.
Written in the same poetic verse that Montgomery had employed during the aimless wanderings of his youth, 'Nativity'--- what would eventually become the carol 'Angels, from the Realms of Glory'---told the story of angels proclaiming the birth of a Savior for all people, English and Irish, rich and poor, Anglican and Moravian. Eloquent, beautiful, and scripturally sound, Montgomery soon touched more lives for Christ with the stroke of his pen than his parents did in all their years of missionary work.
Still, when read between the lines, there was a bit of social commentary in 'Nativity.' A verse long-deleted from the carol speaks of a society that needs to right some wrongs. That lost stanza also reveals the writer's personal journey in finding purpose and meaning in his own life:

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence;
Mercy calls you. Break your chain.

As Montgomery would soon find out, his poem would break chains, but not those he had envisioned. The impact of 'Nativity' would actually foreshadow the writer's future, since he would come to revolutionize music and thinking in the English church.
As often is the case with inspired work, irony stepped in and took an important role in revealing 'Nativity' to a mass audience.

Angels, from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o'er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation's story,
Now proclaim Messiah's birth.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ the newborn King.
Shepherds in the fields abiding,
Watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light.
Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star.
Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.

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Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas 3.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 689 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My husband and I are separated and this will be my first Christmas alone in thirty years. Understandably I have not been looking forward to the Holidays. But I ran across this little book while shopping. It is a delightful quick read. Apparently some of our most beloved Christmas Songs were inspired during times of trial and suffering. Discovering that pain and suffering produces creative inspiration and rebirth actually helped me to begin planning for Christmas. It is a small step but a beginning... A new beginning.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
"Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" by Ace Collins (Website) is a short book, divided into sections, each corresponding to a beloved Christmas song. The book is arranged alphabetically and includes lyrics to most of the songs. The book tells about 31 Christmas songs and carols including "Do You Hear what I Hear", "G-d Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "Jingle Bells', "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and more. The titles are arrange alphabetically and most of the songs also include the lyrics. I was looking forward to read "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas", not only to get into the holiday spirit but also because I love this type of books since my childhood. These short stories filled with charming facts and little unknown tidbits were always fascinating to me. Not to mention a great resource in case I'll be on "Jeopardy" one day. The premise of this book is quite interesting, that is telling the history of each carol or Christmas song. Mr. Collins is a good writer and makes the stories he writes about engaging and easy to read, but he lacks some serious research. The core fact of what the author is describing are woven with information which cannot be verified (such as putting thoughts in people's heads) or is simply misleading (I did some fact checking and found conflicting information). If the information is not wrong well, the reader is out of luck because there are absolutely no sources at the end. I will grant the author that most of the stories he tells are legitimate and verifiable when one checks up on them but to mix fact and fiction only undermines the authors credibility. For example, the author's take on "Good King Wenceslas", he mixes facts and legends into a simple narrative which could easily be taken as all pure fact and worst - be quoted from in the future. The piece about "Twelve Days of Christmas" (which accidentally I happen to look up) was taken out of an Internet page without any reasonable research. The author claims that the "Twelve Days of Christmas" was some sort of coded reference but a 2 second search on Google using the term "Twelve Days of Christmas Origin" brought me to a Snopes page claiming it is false. For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com
JeffInTexas More than 1 year ago
As a musician, I have always enjoyed learning the story behind the song. But this book turns each story into it an inspiation. I started out picking and choosing which songs I to read about. When I realized how much I was motivated by every story, I went back and read about the all the other songs and was moved by them too. Each song story is completely self-contained and are great for reading aloud to friends, family, and children. I bought all the remaining copies at my local B&N to give to friends last Christmas. This is the best "story behind the song" book I have ever read.
ChristmasLoverMO More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, Ace Collins took a great idea and completely ruined it. Collins used many myths and folklore -- unverifiable -- and stated them as fact. The author needs to go back and take a course on sources, identifying CREDIBLE sources, and citing sources. Many of the stories the author paints as fact, are in fact, myths -- fiction in other words. A good example is "The Twelve Days of Christmas." If a person does a little research on the Internet, that individual can learn that the author used a story that has been proven false on the history of this Christmas Carol. I was very disappointed because I was looking forward to reading the history of many of my favorite Christmas hymns. I'm glad I downloaded the book for free.
RLVL More than 1 year ago
Book was very informative and interesting. Would recommend it highly. Gave out to several people for Christmas gifts.
Anonymous 4 months ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Now that was the best
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
If you are a music-lover, a Christmas-lover, or even a history buff - you will likely enjoy this book. Ace Collins gives us the backstories of songs, and shows us how there is a lot more to the seemingly simple carols that many of us have sung for decades. Some were insprited by political beliefs, while others were borne of personal angst. I won't give away but one spoiler, and will share this one just to whet your appetite. I was delighted to discover that "Good King Wenceslas" was based on an actual king, who in fact did have a heart for aiding the poor. I highly recommend this book as a holiday read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Through story telling Collins connects verse with composer, lyricist, performer, and audience. The emerging theme: songs of hope born from difficult times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I often wondered about where some of the Christmas songs came from. This book answered that question besides giving very interesting details about the backgrounds of the song's authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely wonderful.... As I read the stories I kept hearing the tune in my head and singing it in my heart. When I went to church each song sung took on more significance and produced more gratitude. This book portrays the deeper mystery of this wonderful season. There is a quiet working of the gospel message that is bigger than an individual and reaches out to all in ways man could not begin to orchestrate himself. God is behind and within every song and it's history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My kids LOVE IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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cloud5pen More than 1 year ago
OK Book
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If my children could read this book today, the youngest is 28 oldest 39, they wouldn't I fear, get the same emotional thrill I got when I read this book cover to cover. Being a pre-WWII baby I remember the fears and joys of the time as if they were yesterday. My generation truly never had to bear the full brunt of what it was like for so many of the depression era families. And now WWII is taking many of their family members away to fight a war that was not of their making. My own family members who were in the war used this special music as a method of coping with their situations while also thinking about their families "back home." I cry as I remember the day a cousin's death was made known to the family just before Christmas. To this day I cry when I hear, "I'll be home for Christmas" just thinking about that terrible time in our lives. It is still a beautiful song and I love to hear it at this time of the year even though it brings back painful memories. It means the world to me knowing that as I prepare to some day leave this earthly home my children will know that "I'll always be home for Christmas'" if only in their dreams each time they hear this song played.