Tag Archives: Christmas

Who Is This So Weak and Helpless?

Manger and Cloth

There are many well-matched hymn tunes and texts in the treasure trove of hymnody. A well-matched tune not only fits the poetic meter of the text, it helps to undergird, emotionally interpret, and express the meaning of the text. Crafting or finding music that aptly conveys and strengthens the message of the lyrics is called text painting. Examples of hymn tunes that beautifully paint the text include:

“Holy, Holy, Holy” by Reginald Heber (1783–1826) 
Set to the tune NICAEA by John B. Dykes, 1861

This hymn echoes the threefold praise of God’s holiness found in Scripture (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). It affirms the doctrine: “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.” The motive of the tune accompanies the words “Holy, Holy, Holy.” It consists of a rising arpeggio of the tonic chord: a major triad made up of a root, 3rd, and 5th. It is a musical illustration of the doctrine of the Trinity: 3 notes, one chord.  

“How Firm a Foundation” from John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787 
Set to the tune FOUNDATION from John Funk’s Genuine Church Music, 1832

This hymn affirms the certainty of God’s Word. All that God has said and promised will surely come to pass. The tune conveys firmness by emphasizing the structural tones of the major scale. Most of the melody consists of the three notes of the tonic triad (the most stable chord of the key). 

“O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” a Medieval Latin poem ascribed to Bernard Clairvaux (1091–1153)
Set to the tune PASSION CHORALE by Hans Leo Hassler, 1601, harmonized by J.S. Bach, 1729

Hassler’s tune in minor with Bach’s harmonization captures well the “grief,” “anguish,” and “sorrow” in the text. Bach concludes with a cadence in the relative major, as the hymn expresses both the suffering of Christ on the cross and God’s grace and love that come to us through Christ’s sacrifice.

“Up from the Grave He Arose” (Low in the Grave He Lay) 
Set to the tune CHRIST AROSE
Words and music by Robert Lowry (1826–1866)

Lowry’s hymn celebrating Christ’s resurrection begins with an 8-measure subdued verse (“Low in the grave He lay”) leading into a 12-measure triumphant chorus with dotted rhythms and expanded range. The chorus opens with an ascending arpeggio on the tonic chord interpreting the words “Up from the grave He arose.”

“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, 1719 
Set to the tune ANTIOCH by Lowell Mason, 1836, based on music by G.F. Handel, 1742

This familiar Christmas hymn proclaims Christ’s incarnation. The tune begins with a descending major scale conveying the text: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” The melody then ascends, returning to the starting note, reaching up with the words: “Let earth receive her King!”

A lesser-known Christmas hymn, whose tune beautifully portrays the text, is “Who Is This So Weak and Helpless.” This hymn begins with the birth of Christ, then points us to His life, suffering, and death on the cross. The first half of each verse focuses on Christ’s humiliation and asks the perplexing question: “Who is this?” The question is tied to the hymn’s motive that begins with the opening notes of the minor scale, rising a minor third from “a” to “c” (from tonic to mediant). The second half of each verses answers the question posed in the first half. We see Christ’s exaltation in stark contrast to His humiliation: “Who is this?” Answer: “Tis the Lord!” “Tis our God!” The motive also begins the second half of each verse, but the notes are raised a third. Now the notes rise from “c” to “e” (a major third), brightening the motive with uplifting wonder.

It seems improbable that the child who “coldly in a manger laid” is “the Lord of all creation.” It seems astounding that “a Man of Sorrows” is indeed “our God, our glorious Savior.” Yet this is the profound mystery of the incarnation. 

Below is the full text of the hymn. As you celebrate this Christmas season look from the manger to the cross and marvel at the wondrous way that God has accomplished our salvation.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Who Is This So Weak and Helpless?

“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (John 1:10).

WHO is this so weak and helpless,
Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered,
Coldly in a manger laid?
‘TIS the Lord of all creation,
Who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting,
And to everlasting God.

WHO is this, a Man of Sorrows,
Walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping,
Over sin and Satan’s sway?
‘TIS our God, our glorious Savior,
Who above the starry sky
Now for us a place prepareth,
Where no tear can dim the eye.

WHO is this? Behold Him shedding
Drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
Mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
‘TIS our God, who gifts and graces
On His church now poureth down;
Who shall smite in holy vengeance
All His foes beneath His throne.

WHO is this that hangeth dying
While the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors,
Torn with nails and crowned with thorns?
‘TIS the God who ever liveth 
‘Mid the shining ones on high,
In the glorious golden city,
Reigning everlastingly.

“Who Is This So Weak and Helpless” 
Words by William Walsham How (1823–1897)
Music by John Ambrose Lloyd, the elder (1815–1874)
Words and Music ©Public Domain

Download lyrics and free sheet music (PDF), including guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune EIFIONYDD for classical guitar. 

More Hymns from History

More Christmas hymns arranged for Classical Guitar

More Christmas Music for Classical Guitar

“…for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people, for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I especially enjoy sharing and celebrating through music the good news of Christ’s coming. If you are a guitarist looking for music to play during this season of Advent and Christmas, here are a few hymns and songs I recently added:

  • Once in Royal David’s City
  • Savior of the Nations Come
  • Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
  • We Three Kings of Orient Are
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas

You can download these (and more) free here: 
Christmas Music for Classical Guitar

You are welcome to copy and share these hymns with friends and fellow guitarists. You can use them for accompanying congregational singing, playing prelude or offertory music, or simply playing for your own enjoyment.  Please copy the full page with the website address and the “Used by Permission” notice at the bottom (see Permissions).

For additional music, visit:

Hymns for Classical Guitar

Music of Bach for Classical Guitar

Wedding Music for Classical Guitar

Student Pieces and Music for Classical Guitar 

O Holy Night

Night Sky

Cantique de Noël

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angel voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night—O holy night, O night divine!

French Carol
Translated by John S Dwight, 1855
Music by Adolphe Adam, 1847

Read more of the lyrics to this Christmas Carol

Download a free arrangement of this Christmas Carol
for Flute and Classical Guitar [PDF]

To find additional music arranged for Classical Guitar, including an arrangement of Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata in C for Flute and Guitar, visit:

Student Pieces and Music for Classical Guitar

See also:

Christmas Music for Classical Guitar

Hymns for Classical Guitar

Wedding Music for Classical Guitar

Music of Bach for Classical Guitar

 

Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1–2).

Forest at Dawn

Isaiah 40 begins with some amazing words of hope. In the midst of pending judgment, Isaiah points the nation of Judah to the coming of the Messiah. He speaks of Christ who would come and tell the weary and downcast:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

In 1741 George Fredrick Handel opened his oratorio Messiah with a setting of Isaiah 40. Seventy years earlier, in 1671, a German minister named Johannes Olearius fashioned the same passage into a hymn: Comfort, Comfort Ye My People. Olearius was born in 1611 (the same year the KJV translation of the Bible was completed) and he attended the University of Wittenberg (where Martin Luther had taught theology).

The hymn is set to a tune from the Genevan Psalter composed by Louis Bourgeois to fit Psalm 42. Psalm 42 includes the refrain:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
(Psalm 42:5)

Olearius’ hymn is a beautiful setting of God’s words of comfort to His people. It was translated into English by Catherine Winkworth in 1863.

 

Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

Comfort, comfort ye my people,
Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load.
Speak ye to Jerusalem,
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover,
And her warfare now is over.

Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
Blotting out each dark misdeed;
All that well deserved His anger
He no more will see or heed.
She has suffered many a day,
Now her griefs have passed away;
God will change her pining sadness
Into ever springing gladness.

For the herald’s voice is crying
In the darkness far and near,
Bidding all men to repentance,
Since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
Let the valleys rise to meet Him,
And the hills bow down to greet Him.

Make ye straight what long was crooked,
Make the rougher places plain;
Let your hearts be true and humble,
As befits His holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord
Now o’er earth is shed abroad;
And all flesh shall see the token,
That His word is never broken.

“Comfort, Comfort Ye My People”
Words by Johannes Olearius, 1671
Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863
Music by Louis Bourgeois, 1551
Arranged from the tune GENEVAN 42
From the Genevan Psalter, 1551
Words and Music ©Public Domain

Download free sheet music (PDF), including guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune THIRSTING for classical guitar.

More Hymns from History

More Christmas music arranged for Classical Guitar

Behold Your God, Believe His Word!

Isaiah 40 Bible

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
And all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
When the breath of the LORD blows on it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God will stand forever.
(Isaiah 40:6–8)

Isaiah reminds us that God always is faithful to His Word.

Our experiences in this life are temporary—including both joys and trials; but God’s Word endures forever. We are like the grass that withers and the flower that fades—but God and His Word are not. Darkness and difficulties may come, or prosperity and ease—but regardless of circumstances, regardless of how well or how badly things appear to be going, God will always accomplish all He has purposed. His Word is true and faithful. For Judah, devastation and exile are looming, BUT there is hope, there is comfort, there is a SAVIOR. Christ will come, because “the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.”

Read more from this sermon on Isaiah 40 entitled “Behold Our God, Believe His Word”

Find More Sermons and Articles

Christmas Music for Classical Guitar

Christmas Guitar

It’s never too early to begin practicing music for Christmas!

Download a free PDF Songbook as my gift to you this Christmas season. It contains 30 Christmas hymns and songs arranged for Classical Guitar:

  1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel • VENI EMMANUEL
  2. Comfort, Comfort Ye My People • THIRSTING
  3. Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming • ES IST EIN’ ROS’ ENTSPRUGEN
  4. O Little Town of Bethlehem • ST LOUIS
  5. O Sing a Song of Bethlehem • KINGSFOLD
  6. O Come, All Ye Faithful • ADESTE FIDELES
  7. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear • CAROL
  8. Angels We Have Heard on High • GLORIA
  9. Angels from the Realms of Glory • REGENT SQUARE
  10. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing • MENDELSSOHN
  11. The First Noel • THE FIRST NOEL
  12. What Child Is This?• GREENSLEEVES
  13. Gentle Mary Laid Her Child • TEMPUS ADEST FLORIDUM
  14. Away in a Manger • MUELLER
  15. As with Gladness Men of Old • DIX
  16. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence • PICARDY
  17. Who Is This So Weak and Helpless • EIFIONYDD
  18. Joy to the World • ANTIOCH
  19. All My Heart This Night Rejoices • WARUM SOLLT’ ICH MICH DENN GRAMEN
  20. See Amid the Winter’s Snow • SEE AMID THE WINTER’S SNOW
  21. Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella • BRING A TORCH
  22. The Coventry Carol • COVENTRY CAROL
  23. I Saw Three Ships • I SAW THREE SHIPS
  24. In the Bleak Mid-Winter • CRANHAM
  25. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day • WALTHAM
  26. Sing We Now of Christmas • FRENCH CAROL
  27. Good Christian Men, Rejoice • IN DULCI JUBILO
  28. How Great Our Joy • JUNST
  29. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen • GOD REST YOU MERRY
  30. Silent Night • STILLE NACHT

May you and your family find the peace of God in Christ and rejoice with “exceedingly great joy” in Him (Matthew 2:10).

Christmas Music for Classical Guitar

More music for Classical Guitar

Image above made with Unsplash

 

Such Love That Brought the Savior Down

Winter Sky

1. Such love that brought the Savior down
That He would come and dwell
With sinners whom He came to save
From certain death and hell,
From certain death and hell.
Our need was great, our sin had caused
A deep and deadly rift,
Which only God could reconcile
With His most precious gift,
With His most precious gift.

2. It was God’s plan to send His Son,
A gift of love and grace,
To save a people for Himself
Out from our dying race,
Out from our dying race.
And thus to die Himself, He came
To suffer in our stead,
And e’en before He bore the cross
A manger was His bed,
A manger was His bed.

3. Let us rejoice this Christmas Day
And share our gifts and love,
The Word made flesh has now appear’d,
So sang the hosts above,
So sang the hosts above.
And thus a star and angel choir
Announce His lowly birth,
The incarnation of our Lord,
God’s love brought down to earth,
God’s love brought down to earth.

“Such Love That Brought the Savior Down”
A Hymn for Christmas
Words ©1998 Kenneth Pul
Music ©1998 Tom Wells

Listen to this hymn and download free sheet music