Musical Countdown to Christmas – The Birthday of a King by William H. Neidlinger

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Welcome to Day 6 of my Musical Countdown to Christmas. I hope you’re enjoying this series as much as I am. Today we take a look at The Birthday of a King by William H. Neidlinger.

Who was William H. Neidlinger?

  • Born in 1863
  • Studied in Brooklyn, London, and Paris
  • A Composer of two operas, a mass, a cantata, and many songs
  • Put his own poems and the work of others (Whitman, Tennyson, Longfellow, etc.) to music
  • An organist and conductor in New York City
  • Founded a school for children who were underachievers in New Jersey
  • Developed music pedagogy and music therapy, which he tried at his school

The Story behind The Birthday of a King

  • Written in 1890
  • Originally published in 1912
  • The words and music were written by William H. Neidlinger

Historical Context

  • The first playable recording (1877)
  • Carnegie Hall opened in New York
  • Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes
  • Emily Dickensen (poet)
  • Recording of the Hallelujah Chorus by the Battery Band in New York
  • A decline in the New York Stock Exchange started an economic depression in 1893

Looking for more details?

My gift for today

Enter a comment below for your chance to win Every Child Can Succeed: Making the Most of Your Child’s Learning Style by Cynthia Tobias.

Every Child can Succeed

Musical Countdown to Christmas: Joy to the World by Isaac Watts

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Welcome to my musical countdown to Christmas, Day 5. You may also want to read about the carols and composers from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. Don’t forget to leave a comment for an opportunity to win my gift of the day.

Who was Isaac Watts?

  • Born on July 17, 1674 in Southampton, England
  • He complained to his father that the songs of the church were hard to sing; his father told him to write something better
  • Learned Greek, Hebrew, and Latin
  • 1696 became a tutor
  • 1702 became a pastor
  • Struggled with poor health
  • Wrote books on geography, astronomy, grammar, and philosophy, but he’s most famous for the more than 700 hymns/poems which he wrote both for adults and children. Most of his poetry and hymns were based on Scripture passages.
  • Considered the “Father of English hymnody”
  • Awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree by the University of Edinburg

The story behind Joy to the World

  • Written in 1719 under a tree on the Abney Estate near London, England
  • Based on Psalm 98
  • Original theme of the song was the second coming of Jesus
  • Watt’s poem was set to music over 100 years later by Lowell Mason

Historical context (1719)

  • Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe
  • First recorded sighting of the northern lights (Aurora Borealis) in New England

Looking for more details?

My gift for today

Leave a comment below to be entered in a draw for the devotional book, Rise. This book has 32 weeks of devotionals for students in their first year of college, written by ninety-two different authors.

Rise by Ruth L Snyder

Musical Countdown to Christmas: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Who was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

  • Born in Maine in 1807
  • The second child of eight
  • Enjoyed writing and planned many writing projects with his friend William Browne
  • Published his first poem at age 13
  • Attended Bowdoin College along with Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Learned seven different languages and taught French, Spanish, and Italian at Bowdoin
  • First book (travelogue) was Outre Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea (1835)
  • Married Mary Potter, who died of a complicated miscarriage
  • Suffered from depression
  • Fell in love with Fanny Appleton (but Fanny didn’t reciprocate for seven long years)
  • Started teaching at Harvard University in 1836
  • Became popular worldwide as a poet and writer
  • Resigned from Harvard in 1857, a self-sustaining author
  • In 1861 Henry sustained burns trying to rescue Fanny from a house fire; Fanny died on their 18th wedding anniversary
  • In 1863 Henry’s son, Charles, ran off and joined the civil war against his father’s wishes
  • Has been described as a traveller, a linguist, and a romantic

The Story behind I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

  • Henry’s son, Charles, was a soldier in the Union Army
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words in December 1863 as he sat at the bedside of his son Charles, who was injured in the war
  • Original Title: Christmas Bells
  • You can find the full text of the poem on Hymns and Carols of Christmas
  • Watch the video below to hear more of the story and a stirring rendition of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Historical Context of the Song

  • Written in the middle of the American Civil War (1861-1865)
  • Over 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in this war due to either battle or disease
  • Harriet Tubman freed slaves
  • “Missa Solemnis,” by Franz Schubert was performed in Leipzig
  • “Les Pêcheurs de Perles,” by George Bizet premiered in France

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today

Enter your comment below for a chance to win a copy of a dramatized version of Oliver Twist (written in 1838 by Charles Dickens).

Oliver Twist

Musical Countdown to Christmas: Away in a Manger by John T. McFarland

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Welcome to day 3 in my musical countdown to Christmas. You may also be interested in reading the posts for Day 1 and Day 2. Don’t forget to leave a comment below for your chance to win!

Who was John T. McFarland?

  • Born January 2, 1851
  • Methodist Minister who served in Iowa, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, and Kansas
  • Edited Sunday School Programs for the Methodist Episcopal Church

The Story behind Away in a Manger

  • First published in 1885 in a Lutheran Sunday School book compiled by James R. Murray
  • Most people say the author of the first two stanzas is unknown.
  • Another collection published in 1887 by James R. Murray (Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses) claimed the song was written by Martin Luther. “Luther’s Cradle Hymn, Composed by Martin Luther for his children and still sung by German mothers to their little ones.”
  • The carol became known in Germany AFTER it was widely known in the United States, which discounts the theory that Martin Luther wrote the first two stanzas
  • Third stanza was written by John T. McFarland in 1908 for use in a children’s church day program

Historical Context of the Song

  • Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was published
  • First issue of Good Housekeeping was published
  • Louis Pasteur developed a successful vaccine against rabies
  • The first bottle of Coca-cola was sold in 1886
  • Nikola Tesla began experimenting with x-rays

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today

Enter a comment below for your chance to win “Welcome to Whit’s End” a CD with two Adventures in Odyssey stories and a bonus mini-drama.

Adventures in Odyssey

Musical Countdown to Christmas: Angels We Have Heard on High

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Thanks for following along with this musical countdown to Christmas. If you missed Day 1, you can find it here.

Who was James Chadwick?

  • Born at Drogheda, Ireland on April 24, 1813
  • Third son of of John Chadwick and Francis Dromgoole
  • Ordained as Priest on December 17, 1836
  • The Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle

The Story of Angels We Have Heard on High

  • Originally a French carol known as the Angel’s Hymn (author unknown)
  • The lyrics depict the story of Christ’s birth as told in the Gospel of Luke
  • In A.D. 129, a Bishop of Rome proclaimed that everyone should sing this “Angel’s Hymn”
  • People believe this is the first ever Christmas hymn of the church
  • James Chadwick translated the Angel’s Hymn into English in 1862

Historical Context of the Song

  • The first petroleum shipment from the United States arrived in England
  • Julia Howe published the Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • Civil War in the United States

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a PDF copy of my Christmas novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle.

Cecile Cover

Yesterday’s Winner:

Congratulations to Pat Earl! You will be receiving the Irreplaceable DVD.

Musical Countdown to Christmas: Silent Night by Joseph Mohr

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Welcome to my musical countdown to Christmas for 2014! In these posts I will share some “behind the scenes” information about the Christmas Carol and composer for the day, as well as a link to a performance of the song. Enjoy!

Who was Joseph Mohr?

  • Born in Salzburg on December 11, 1792
  • His soldier father deserted the family when he discovered Joseph’s mother was pregnant
  • Considered a social outcast because he was born out of wedlock
  • His mother raised him, earning money by spinning and knitting
  • Johann Hiernle, a church choir master, recognized Joseph’s musical ability and made sure he received a proper education
  • Played guitar, violin, and organ
  • Ordained as a priest in 1812

The story behind Silent Night

  • Written in 1816 while Joseph Mohr was serving as an assistant priest in Mariapfarr in Lungau
  • In 1818, Joseph Mohr approached his organist friend, Franz Xaver Gruber, asking him to compose a melody which fit the text and could be performed by a choir accompanied by guitar
  • On December 24, 1818 Franz Gruber brought his composition to Joseph Mohr
  • The carol was first performed at Christmas Mass on December 24, 1818 with Joseph Mohr singing tenor while playing guitar and Gruber singing bass to an audience consisting of mostly shipping labourers and boat builders
  • An original autographed copy of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) was discovered in 1995!

Historical Context of the Song

  • Written just after the Napoleonic wars of 1792-1815
  • Salzburg had just lost its status as an independent country
  • Oberndorf was separated from Laufen (across the new official border of the Salzach River)
  • The local economy, which had been dependent on salt trade, was depressed by the war
  • Many of the boat builders and labourers faced uncertainty and possible unemployment

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a free copy of the new DVD from Focus on the Family  – Irreplaceable: What is Family?

Irreplaceable Movie



Five Minute Friday: Prepare


Five Minute Friday is a weekly challenge for bloggers where we are given a prompt and write for five minutes. Then we share the results with the Five Minute Friday community on Kate’s blog. Come join us!

When we think of Christmas, we think of preparing:

  • Preparing food – like special cookies, fruitcake, pecan pie (a tradition when I was growing up), turkey and all the trimmings
  • Preparing with decorations – like Christmas ornaments, stockings, Christmas trees, red & green, mistletoe
  • Preparing for guests – cleaning our houses, making beds
  • Preparing special programs at church – angels with halos slightly askew, shepherds who get lost on their way down the aisle, Christmas carols, choirs
  • Preparing for time off – no school, time off work, family time

When I read the prompt this morning, the first thing that popped into my head was, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” – the words of John the Baptist whose job it was to get people ready for Jesus. As we prepare for the Christmas season this year, let’s not forget to prepare our hearts – to be still and know that He is God, to revel in wonder at how much the King of Kings loves us, to ponder the amazing gift Jesus gave us in His coming to earth and dying for our sins.

Are you prepared for Christmas? Are you doing anything different this year to help yourself “get in the spirit” of Christmas? Share with us 🙂

Starting on December 14th, I’m giving myself a challenge to help prepare my heart for Christmas. Each day I will share the story behind a Christmas carol and the person who wrote it. I’ll also be giving away some books and other resources. Enter your e-mail on the left so you won’t miss any of the posts.

Christmas Countdown1

Free Christmas Short Story!

Beggar boy sleeping on cardboard sheet


This month I would like to give you a Christmas short story called Hope for Jimmy. All you need to do to receive this story is fill in the form below with your name, e-mail address, and tell me what you’d like me to blog about in the coming year.

I hope this story will remind you that there are people who need our help at Christmas time. Ask God how He wants you to reach out and give hope to someone this Christmas.

Matthew 25:31-40 (NIV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

(From The Bible Gateway)

Merry Christmas!

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