Jingle Coins

Another parody Christmas carol — an anti-consumerism parody this time. I got the words from some singing friends, and typeset it with a SATB arrangement which is based on James Pierpont’s original paino/vocal score for “Jingle Bells” (click on the image below for a full-size PDF):

Jingle Coins thumbnail

We sang it in our junior high Sunday school class this past Sunday, and the kids loved it. We also sang it during social hour on Sunday with the adults, again people seemed to like it.

Good King Wenceslas

Here’s another song for Christmas time:— Quite a few people in our congregation like the song “Good King Wenceslas” because it’s a social justice song: King Wenceslas and his page bring food, drink, and fuel to a poor family on the Feast of St. Stephen, December 26 (the second day of Christmas). While they’re trudging through the snow to the poor family’s dwelling, the king’s page weakness and thinks he can go no longer, but Wenceslas provides warmth to keep him going; and this is my favorite part of the story because it seems to me to be a kind of parable about social justice leadership.

Philip, a long-time member of our congregation, pointed out to us that you can produce a nice effect if the high voices (i.e., most of the women and the children) sing the page’s words, and the low voices (i.e., those who sing in the tenor and bass range) sing the king’s words. So that’s how we sing it in our congregation.

Click on the image below for PDF sheet music of the traditional (copyright-free) four-part arrangement by John Stainer, with guitar chords, and sized correctly to fit into the typical order of service:


“We Wish You…”

Every year in our congregation, Paul, one of our resident musicians, teaches the children in grades preK – 3 a couple of Christmas songs. On the day of our No-Rehearsal Christmas Pageant, Paul has the children sing these songs at the beginning of the early service.

One of the songs Paul usually has the children sing is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Actually, it’s a great song for anyone to sing. I found an old four-part arrangement, simplified it, added guitar chords — and here it is, in a PDF version that’s copyright-free and sized right to go into the typical order of service:

We Wish

“The Race That Long in Darkness Pined”

It’s way too early for Christmas, but….

My favorite reading for the Christmas season is the King James translation of Isaiah 9.1-8. I love the rhythm of the language, and the beauty of the imagery. From a theological perspective, I’m not willing to say that Isaiah 9.1-8 predicts the coming of Jesus as the one and only Messiah (capital “M”) — I’m in the camp that says there have been and will continue to be messiahs (lower case “m”), of whom Jesus of Nazareth was one. Whatever my theological position, it’s a beautiful piece of prose.

Recently, I stumbled across a metrical paraphrase of Isaiah 9.1-8, done by John Morison for the 1650 Scottish Psalter. It’s not as good a rendition as the King James translation — but because it’s a metrical paraphrase, you could sing it, and how cool is that? So I wrote a hymn tune for it. A polyphonic tune. In Dorian mode. Between the music and the words, this would never be used as a hymn in a Unitarian Universalist congregation. But I had fun writing it, and there are one or two hymn geeks out there who might actually enjoy seeing it, so here it is:


(Click the image for a PDF. Complete words below.) Continue reading ““The Race That Long in Darkness Pined””

Have Yourself a Buy Nothing Christmas

Yes, it’s not too early to start planning for Christmas. More specifically, it’s not too early to start planning if you want to have a Buy Nothing Christmas. A bunch of Canadian Mennonites have been promoting this concept through this Web site, and this Facebook page.

I like them because they’re not afraid to tell the truth about Christmas consumption as they see it, yet they’re not sanctimonious about it. And they play ukuleles in the snow. And they have funny posters.

Best new song of the season

OK, this song came out on Jennifer Cutting’s 2011 album “Song of Solstice,” so it’s not exactly new. But it’s new to me this year, and I think it’s the best new Yuletide song I’ve heard in a few years.

The song is called “Light the Winter’s Dark,” and below you can find my take on the lyrics, from the singing of Coope, Boyes, and Simpson, the English a capella trio who usually sing traditional tunes. Yeah, the lyrics are a little preachy, but most sacred song is a little preachy. I can’t find the song on Youtube, but you can hear a brief preview of the tune on the CD Universe Web site here; or there’s a longer preview at the iTunes store.

Get the choir in your Unitarian Universalist congregation to sing this song next year…

Continue reading “Best new song of the season”

Xmas jokes

I always need clean Christmas jokes, the kind of thing you can tell to a fifth grader. Philip came through for me in a big way this year. Below are some of the jokes he passed along to me. As the reindeer comedian said, These will sleigh you!

What do elves learn in school?
The elfabet.

How many letters in the elfabet?
Only twenty-five, because of Noel.

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

What do psychiatrists call someone who is afraid of Santa?

Little boy: “Mom, can I have a dog for Christmas?”
Mother: “No, you’ll have turkey like everyone else in the family.”

Mother: “What’s the best thing to put into a Christmas cake?”
Little girl: “Your teeth.”

Little boy: “Teacher, what do you call Santa’s helpers?”
Teacher: “Subordinate Clauses.”

OK, that’s the last joke. You can stop groaning now.

Jingle Bells

So James Pierpont, the guy who wrote “Jingle Bells,” was a Unitarian, and worked as the music director at the Unitarian church in Savannah, Georgia, before the Civil War — and before that church has to close down because it leaned strongly Abolitionist. But “Jingle Bells” is not in any Unitarian Universalist hymnal. If you want to sing it during a Sunday service, here’s an arrangement laid out on a half-letter-size sheet, that you can stick into the typical order of service:

Jingle Bells (PDF)

(This arrangement is from an early edition of Pierpont’s sheet music, available online at the Library of Congress.)


Here’s Dad’s Christmas tree:

This requires a bit of explanation. The aluminum foil under the tree is a nice Christmas-y touch, looking a little like ice and/or snow. But it’s also the ground plane for the vertical antenna for Dad’s 2 meter rig 40 meter rig — you can see the antenna sparkling in the lights just to the left of the tree.

This is about as cool as Christmas decorations can get.