Marker 1

  • Favorite hymn #1

    Where Shepherds Lately Knelt

    Listen to this version provided by Northwestern Publishing House: Tune: Carl F. Schalk, 1929-2021 Permission to use the tune granted by GIA Publications, Inc.

    A reflection submitted by Joyce Schubkegel, St. Paul's, New Ulm, Minn.:

    Have you ever wished you could have been in the Bethlehem stable the night Jesus was born? I know I have! In fact, in the hymn “Where Shepherds Lately Knelt” (Christian Worship 345), author Jaroslav Vajda assures us that “there is room and welcome there for me”!

    To make that visit personal and possible for you and “for me,” Vajda refreshingly records the nativity in the first person. Like the shepherds who “lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,” we too “come in half belief” as “a pilgrim strangely stirred,” finding our Savior as the angels had said, “in that unlikely place,” “sweet newborn babe, how frail! And in a manger bed.”

    It’s as though we really were there!

    This collaboration of a Vajda text and a Carl Schalk tune has been a far-reaching favorite for Treble Choir members, Dr. Martin Luther College Christmas concert audiences, and anyone who has heard, performed, and grown to love this contemplative, contemporary hymn over the years. May it become a personal Christmas favorite for you too, as it has “for me”!

    A reflection submitted by Carol Egelseer, Bethany, Hustisford, Wis.:

    When we start to sing verse 3, the tears are falling . . . but it’s so wonderful to repeat, “for me, for me.” The best Christmas story!

    A reflection submitted by Melissa Koenig, St. Mark, Bemidji, Minn.:

    "Where Shepherds Lately Knelt" holds a special place in my heart. I love the imagery the hymn portrays, where I feel like I am right there in the stable with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Instead of fanfare, this hymn displays the ponder, peace, and wonder of Christmas, reflecting why Jesus came to the earth.

    The first time I sang this hymn, I had moved to a new Lutheran school. I went from being the only first grade student in a multi-grade classroom to one out of twenty-one second grade students in a single grade classroom. It was a big change! I was hesitant to attend a large school. My older brother wasn't in my classroom anymore, and so many kids filled the building.

    For our Christmas service, we memorized and sang "Where Shepherds Lately Knelt." I still remember singing the line, "But there is room and welcome there for me" and thinking about how there is room and welcome for me in this new classroom and school, but there was also room and welcome for me in heaven.

    Years later, I am now a Lutheran school teacher, sharing God's Word to students just like my teachers did for me. I am forever grateful for Christian education and all of my teachers that I had throughout my life. I pray that my students know that there is room and welcome for them in my classroom and forever in heaven.

    A reflection submitted by an anonymous member from St. Paul, Saginaw, Mich.:

    As much as I love this hymn, I can never sing it! The huge lump in my throat prevents my voice from being heard as tears stream down my face.

Marker 2

  • Favorite hymn #2

    Silent Night

    Listen to this version provided by Northwestern Publishing House: A reflection submitted by Daniel Kramer, Peace in Jesus Vietnamese, Boise, Idaho:

    Members of Peace in Jesus Vietnamese, Boise, Idaho, singing "Silent Night" by candlelight
    “Đêm xuống êm đềm” is how my favorite Christmas hymn begins in Vietnamese. “Silent Night” (Christian Worship 337) has always been the closing hymn of our cozy candlelight Christmas Eve service at Peace in Jesus Vietnamese. I play double bass with the others on guitar and piano, while also watching the joyful, candlelit faces of people who love this song and who are loved by God. I recall snow falling gently as our members gathered to sing of God’s redeeming grace. I remember the puff of smoke when little Ngọc let her hair get too close to the candle while singing of love’s pure light.

    I love the international flavor of “Silent Night,” from its beginning in Oberndorf, Austria, sung at the Church of St. Nicholas on Dec. 24, 1818. I love that Father Mohr, distressed by a broken organ and the prospect of a service without music, wrote the words of “Silent Night,” which he took to his friend Franz Grüber, who composed the now-famous melody on his guitar.

    The somber-sweet lyrics rang out in 1914, sung simultaneously in French, English, and German by troops during the Christmas truce of World War I. I appreciate our new Christian Worship including German, Spanish, and Mandarin versions. Over 45 languages now carry the tune about the virgin mother and child, which prompts me to treasure the thought of people from every nation and language praising God in heavenly peace.

    A reflection submitted by Dorothy Grivno, Crown of Life, Hubertus, Wis.:

    When I was growing up, my family would put an artificial Christmas tree in the window at the top of the stairs. The twinkling lights greeted us as we came home from farm chores in the dark evenings between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a magical time of year. I still can hear my father softly singing and humming “Silent Night” each night as we went upstairs past the tree to our beds. His singing quietly kept the true meaning of the season in our hearts and minds.

    Though my dad was never outspoken, his quiet faith was such a blessing and an example all through my childhood. This Christmas marks the eighth year he will be celebrating with Jesus in heaven, but the music and words of that hymn still direct my eyes to the wonder and peace found only in the true meaning of Christmas.

    Christmas hymns from Malawi, Africa, submitted by Missionary John Roebke:

Marker 3

  • Favorite hymn #3

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

    Listen to this version provided by Northwestern Publishing House: A reflection submitted by Lena Becker, New Life, Kenosha, Wis.:

    Growing up, we had our family devotion after dinner during Advent, and afterward we would light the advent wreath and sing all four verses of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (Christian Worship 327). I remember sitting around the table in the dark, my family lit only by the candles, hearing our voices blending together. It always seemed like such an ancient and holy song, and it was a treasured time for us. Today I can still sing all four verses by heart.

Marker 4

  • Favorite hymn #4

    Mary, Did You Know

    A reflection submitted by Cheryl Lervold, Mount Calvary, Redding, Calif.:

    It's almost a tie between "Silent Night" and "Mary, Did You Know." But I chose "Mary, Did You Know" because it brings Christmas and Easter together with the message of Jesus' birth and his willing sacrifice to save us from our sins. It is a very emotionally moving message and melody.

Marker 5

  • Favorite hymn #5

    Of the Father's Love Begotten

    Listen to this version provided by Koine: A reflection submitted by Emily Brand, Redeemer, Mandan, N.D.:

    It is a hymn that does not solely need to be sung during the Christmas season. It can bring joy at all times throughout the year, with the reminder of the love freely given to us by the birth of our Savior!

    A reflection submitted by Debbie Wormer, St. John, Redwood Falls, Minn.:

    This hymn is my favorite because it humbles me. The words and the melody remind me of how ETERNAL God is—his love from the beginning, his promise fulfilled, and that he reigns eternally. How can we not in humbleness thank and praise him?

Marker 6

  • Favorite hymn #6

    O Come, All Ye Faithful

    Listen to this version performed by Branches Band: A reflection submitted by Ryan Stangl, Watertown, Wis:

    Every year I look forward to singing the Christmas carol “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (Christian Worship 354). Maybe it has to do with the joyful excitement that sprung up inside me as a Lutheran elementary school student when the opening strains of this hymn reached my ears as I waited in line to enter the sanctuary for our annual Christmas Eve service. Maybe it has to do with the brief but grand setting composed by John Williams in the famous movie Home Alone 2 that has always captivated my musician’s ears. Maybe it relates to what some have called the most powerful chord in all of hymnody in Sir David Willcocks’ 1961 setting of the final stanza.

    In actuality, I think it’s simply the hymn’s invitation to come and see a promise fulfilled—our God as man—and our hope assured, coupled with a beautiful melody and stirring refrain. Regardless of when or by whom it was written, or whatever setting is used, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is a wonderful reminder of our Savior God’s love for us!

Marker 7

Marker 8

  • Favorite hymn #8

    Joy to the World

    Listen to this version provided by the Wisconsin Lutheran Choir of Wisconsin Lutheran College: A reflection submitted by Heather Maron, St. Mark, Watertown, Wis.:

    We always sang “Joy to the World” (Christian Worship 353) while walking out of the school Christmas Eve service in church when I was in grade school. Over 20 years later, they are still doing it, and my children are now singing the same hymn while walking out of their Christmas Eve service at the same church. Brought tears to my eyes the first time my children did it!

Marker 9

  • Favorite hymn #9

    Away in a Manger

    Listen to this version of the song provided by the Martin Luther College Choir:

    A reflection submitted by Glenn Schwanke, Trinity, Minoqua, Wis.:

    It’s my favorite moment in the Christmas Eve worship service. The nursery-school children are carefully shepherded to the front of the sanctuary. With bright eyes and broad smiles, they begin to sing. Or should I say—shout! “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.” Proud parents and grandparents drink in every word.

    “The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.” Their singing carries me back more than 60 years to a piano bench next to my mother. I can’t read music yet, but I listen—mesmerized. Like a hawk I watch while her fingers dance on the keyboard. As she plays, she sings, “The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay.” She pauses, and repeats each phrase. Again and again. Patiently, tenderly, she teaches me to sing. “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

    “Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray.” The shout-singing of the children tugs me back out of my memories. Just in time for the boy inside me to join in: “Bless all the dear children in your tender care, and take us to heaven to live with you there” (Christian Worship 340).

    A reflection submitted by Joel Zank, Mount Olive, Appleton, Wis.:

    Our granddaughter was born in May. I’ve been singing “Away in a Manger” to her all summer. I’m looking forward to celebrating her first Christmas with her. It is so enjoyable to see the “images” of this hymn through the eyes of a little one and then realize the words are just as meaningful to me. “Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. . . .”

    A reflection submitted by Lydia Prange, Amazing Grace, Dickinson, N.D.:

    “Away in a Manger” is a new favorite for me, as I’ve just started this year singing this song to my daughter as a lullaby. I sing it to her because my husband had it as a lullaby for him when he was a child.

    Children's Christmas program, young girl dressed as an angel
    Send an audio or video recording of children from your church or school singing "Away in a Manger" and they could be featured here! Share submissions via Children pictured above are from Hope, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Marker 10

  • Favorite hymn #10

    Go, Tell It on the Mountain

    Listen to this version provided by Northwestern Publishing House: A reflection submitted by Snowden Sims, St. Paul's, Columbus, Ohio:

    This was a song that we would sing as a family when I was a child. Our relatives would gather at one of my aunt's houses on Christmas Eve. We would open one gift, enjoy family company and then sing Christmas songs.

    My aunt would begin by singing, "go tell, tell it on the mountain; go tell, tell it on the mountain; go tell, tell it on the mountain." A few of us would join her, because this would be the constant refrain under the stanzas which the rest of the family would begin singing.

    We would do this for the different stanzas and then she would finish the way she began. It sounded like this . . .

    A reflection submitted by Paul Lindhorst, Christ, Big Bend, Wis.:

    Our son had a growth hormone deficiency, so over his first few years he was exceptionally small for his age. At the age of four, he was old enough to participate in his first children’s Christmas service. Though physically no bigger than a two-year-old, emotionally and spiritually he was a thriving four-year-old. We debated whether to involve him in the service as he was so much smaller than the other children. But he so wanted to be with his classmates. “I want to sing praise to Jesus!” he exclaimed.The night of the worship service came, and the whole school was up in front to sing “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” (Christian Worship 361). He was so small next to all the other children. The teachers decided to have the children begin by singing the first verse. As they finished the verse, all at once we heard what sounded to us like the voice of one child singing with all his heart and every ounce of his strength, “Go, tell it on the mountain!” The same thing happened after each verse.

    Following the service, he excitedly told us, “I praised Jesus, Mom and Dad, for taking away my sins! Did you hear me?” With misty eyes and joy-filled hearts, we assured him that we had. We also shared how proud we were that he had sung his praises to Jesus, his Savior, for others to hear. That’s when “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” became my favorite Christmas hymn.

    A reflection submitted by Luke and Rachel Beilke, missionaries in Latin America:

    A reflection submitted by Julie Duran, Victory of the Lamb, Franklin, Wis.:

    My grandkids belt it out all year long.

Marker 11

  • Reflection from Missionary Terry Schultz

    To Shepherds as They Watched by Night

    Listen to this version provided by Northwestern Publishing House: Christmas songs that include shepherds and sheep, like “To Shepherds as They Watched by Night” (Christian Worship 335), remind me of my mission work with the indigenous tribal group, the Shawi, of the Peruvian Amazon jungle.

    “What are sheep, Terry?” the Shawis asked during my village presentation on the Christmas story. My Peruvian coworker stepped in. “A sheep is like a cross between a pig and a llama,” he explained. That didn’t help much. The next question was, “What is a llama?” We would need to take the story very slowly!

    “What harm can sin and death then do? The true God now abides with you.”

    I told of how the God-man Jesus came to earth. One day he would hang on a cross made from a tree to pay for the sins of the world. (We used a drawing to help explain that.) It became obvious to everyone: Such great love the world has never known!

    “Let hell and Satan storm and rave, Christ is your brother—you are safe.”

    I never met a Shawi who had trouble believing that the devil (Supai) took the form of a serpent, slithered over to Eve, and sin soon came upon the entire human race. At Christmastime we rejoice at the tender babe who would crush the serpent’s head!

    Men in Peru coloring a Bible story with a serpent

Marker 12

  • Reflection from WELS’ missionary to South Asia

    Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

    Listen to this version of the song provided by the Martin Luther College Choir:

Marker 13

  • Bonus hymn

    What Child Is This

    Listen to this version provided by Northwestern Publishing House: A reflection submitted by Shelli Wodsedalek, Bethany, Manitowoc, Wis.:

    My middle daughter was born Dec. 5 and baptized on Christmas Day. The doctor was listening to hymns in the operating room, and “What Child Is This” was playing the moment she was born. On her Baptism day, that was one of the hymns sung by the congregation.

    Two reflections submitted by Jennifer Wolfgramm, wife of Missionary Luke Wolfgramm:

    Jennifer Wolfgramm at piano at Christmas
    God let me celebrate 25 Christmases in Russia. “What Child Is This” (Christian Worship 344) was one of my family’s favorite carols. The Akademgorodok choir, pre-service, and other music kept us humming the carol’s haunting melody throughout the Christmas season.

    Once while teaching a piano lesson in Novosibirsk, I tried to explain the terms “major” and “minor.” When I suggested that minor keys sound sad, Galina disagreed. Not sad, but thoughtful, sincere, and beautiful. “What Child Is This” is a lovely example of a minor carol that isn’t sad at all, but full of thoughtful beauty. Words and music express awe and wonder as we contemplate the mystery of God’s Son, our Savior, in human flesh.

    This year we will celebrate Christmas in Durres, Albania, far away from our Siberian friends. I’m not sure if we will sing “What Child Is This” at church, but I’ll be listening to Christmas music at home. Whenever I hear that beautiful, minor melody, I’ll be thinking of our Russian brothers and sisters and praying for them.