William TyndaleIris' Archives, December 2017 

by Iris Holt, Church Warden Emerita

TYNDALE, WILLIAM (tin'dal) c.  1494-1536

Christian scholar, the genius behind the English Bible, the "John the Baptist" of English Protestantism. Forced out of England by his urge to translate the Bible into his native tongue, he studied in Germany. His translations of the Bible were smuggled into England, but most of them were burned. Finally trapped, imprisoned, tried, condemned and burned as a heretic, near Brussels. His dying prayer, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes, was being answered, for in 1537 an English Bible, largely made from Tyndale's translation, was on sale.


O Little Town of BethlehemPhillips Brooks, 1835-1893  

The dramatic birth of this popular Christmas hymn was as sudden as the announcement of the angelic host, concerning the birth of Christ, to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem. The seeds of the hymn were sown in 1865 when on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, Phillips Brooks, noted Episcopal Bishop, attended services in the ancient basilica claimed to have been built by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. He was a young minister, at the time, and the beauty of the simple service made a permanent impression on his heart. Three years later, while rector of Holy Trinity Church, Philadelphia, at the request of the children of the Church School, Phillips Brooks wrote a new Christmas song. His trip to the Holy Land came back to mind vividly and he penned these beautiful words: 

0 little town of Bethlehem, 
How still we see thee lie; 

The thought of the little town of Bethlehem was so strong in his mind, that Brooks completed the entire hymn in one evening. The next day when Lewis Redner, Organist and Church School Superintendent, came into his study, Phillip Brooks gave him the poem and asked if he could write some music for it so that it could be sung during the Christmas season. Redner waited for inspiration, but none came. On the night before Christmas he woke up suddenly, in the middle of the night, the melody of the song ringing in his ears like happy bells. Seizing the nearest piece of paper he wrote down the music that was so clear in his mind, and went back to sleep. In the morning he harmonised the melody, and that same day the little children of Holy Trinity Church sang for the first time one of the most loved Christmas carols.

Carols on the Street

The fine treble of a cathedral chorister isn’t always matched by his carol-singing contemporaries moving from door to door at Christmas time. oNe little band taking Christmas cheer to the neighbourhood asked for a penny or twopence after singing ‘Away in a manger’ at one door, only to be told ‘Here’s a shilling, now go and take yourself and your singing twelve streets away’.

A little boy, with more of an eye for the gift of Christmas than the message, knocked at a door in a street near his home and asked the lady who opened it ‘Can we sing some carols for you missus?’ ‘We? I can only see one of you.’ She answered. ‘Mo, I’ve got a friend’ He answered her. He’s working on the other side of the street. 

Derek Nimmo (on Come On All Ye Faithful)

Iris Holt, 29/11/2017