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What Can We Learn from Old Christmas Hymns?



Vivian Bricker



Christian hymns are a beautiful part of the Christmas season. From listening to old Christmas hymns, there is much we can learn. In this article, I am going to be discussing a few old Christmas hymns and what we can learn from them. Even though these hymns are older than newer Christmas songs, we can learn a great deal from old Christmas hymns.


1. Silent Night

Silent Night is an old Christmas hymn written by Joseph Mohr. Many of us grow up with this Christmas hymn as it is quite popular.


The most popular verse of this Christmas hymn is “Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light radiant beams from thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.” This beautiful hymn teaches us many truths surrounding Christianity.


From the old Christmas hymn Silent Night, we are reminded of the Lord’s beautiful birth into the world. Jesus brought light into the dark world. The night of Jesus’ birth was a silent night because there was not a huge celebration for the Lord on the earth.


Instead, He was born in a humble manger. The angels rejoiced, yet there was not a beautiful celebration for the advent of Christ into the world. The Lord should have had the biggest celebration for His birth into the world, yet He was born into a silent night.


Silent Night is an old Christian hymn that teaches us the divinity of Christ. Even though there was not a huge celebration for Christ, the angels sang praises, “Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight. Glories stream from heaven afar, heav’nly hosts sing, Alleluia! Christ, the Savior, is born! Christ, the Savior, is born!”


Through the angels celebrating the birth of Jesus, we learn the truth of Jesus’ divinity. The Savior deserves all of our praise and worship. Jesus was born on a silent night into the dark world to grow up and save us from our sins.


2. O Holy Night

A second old Christmas hymn we can learn from is O Holy Night, which was written by Adolphe Adam in 1847. This hymn comes from a French poem called Minuit, chrétiens’ (Midnight, Christians).


From this old Christmas hymn, we learn about God’s love for us. This hymn is biblically based and biblically correct as the song matches the gospel accounts.


A few of the verses of O Holy Night include, “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, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”


O Holy Night also teaches us the truth that Jesus is our best friend. In these verses, we are reminded of Jesus’ friendship, “The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger, In all our trials born to be our Friend.”


As this verse from O Holy Night tells us, Jesus is our friend. The Lord is our closest friend, and He loves us dearly.


Jesus is not like human friends who can shift and change or even ghost us. Instead, the Lord is always by our side, and He is with us through every high and every low (Psalm 23). The Lord promises that He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5).



3. O Come, O Come Emmanuel

A third old Christmas hymn we can learn from is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. O Come, O Come Emmanuel was originally written in Latin and dates back to the eighth or ninth century. The first person to compose this Christmas hymn was John Mason Neale in 1851.


This Christmas hymn is a beautiful hymn for the Christmas season, and it teaches us great lessons. One of the main lessons that is taught in O Come, O Come Emmanuel is the concept of God turning our darkness into light as the hymn says, “Dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light.”


Our darkness is turned into light the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are forgiven of our sins, given eternal life, and have a repaired relationship with the Father.


Instead of being filled with darkness, we now have the light of the Lord in our hearts. The Holy Spirit permanently indwells the believer at the moment of salvation, and He will never leave. With the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can live a life of service to the Lord.


4. O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Little Town of Bethlehem is another old Christian hymn that we can learn from. This hymn was written by Phillips Brooks in 1868. The lyrics of this song can teach us many lessons about the Lord.


In a bridge of O Little Town of Bethlehem, the hymn sings, “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv’n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav’n. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”



As this old Christmas hymn tells us, the Father gave us a wonderful gift in the form of Jesus being born into the world to redeem us from our sins.


Because of the Father’s great love for us, He sent His Son to be born into the world.


Jesus tells us directly, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).


The blessings of heaven that Phillips Brooks writes about in O Little Town of Bethlehem is the Lord Jesus Christ.


The Lord was born into Bethlehem, which fulfilled prophecies of the coming Savior (Micah 5:2). The little town of Bethlehem was blessed to have the Savior born in its midst, even though the world at the time had little to no idea.


The final part of this amazing hymn is the words, “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray, cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel!”


As this final line of the hymn tells us, the Lord Immanuel came to abide with His creation at the time of His advent to the earth. This hymn teaches us the amazing truth that God Himself was living among His creation.



Jesus is God, as He is the second member of the Trinity. The Lord Himself tells us, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Thus, through Jesus coming to live with us, it means that God Himself was coming to redeem His children with his own holy blood.


How Do They Apply to Us Today?

Old Christmas hymns are inspiring and encouraging hymns that we should reflect on during the holiday season. Unfortunately, most of the Christmas songs in the present day are not about Jesus. Instead, they are about various topics.


By turning back to old Christmas hymns, we can learn many great biblical truths. The hymn writers of the past prided themselves in writing hymns that were in accordance with the Bible.


Through these old Christmas hymns, we can be impacted by deep spiritual truths that we may not have realized prior to hearing the hymn.

Matthias David
Matthias David
Working in His vine, as He does even more at mine.


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