The first specific Christmas hymns we know of appeared in 4th century Rome. Composed in Latin, one such hymns is known as Veni Redemptor Gentium, written by Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan who lived 340-397AD. Saint Ambrose wrote statements of theological doctrine surrounding the birth of Christ, the Incarnation of God in verse form. The St. John Church's video of this Gregorian Chant is linked below.
Veni, Redemptor Gentium
O COME, Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin-birth.
Let every age in wonder fall:
such birth befits the God of all.
Begotten of no human will
but of the Spirit, Thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.
Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light
where endless faith shall shine serene
and twilight never intervene.
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
whose advent sets Thy people free,
whom, with the Father, we adore,
and Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.
Later in the 9th and 10th centuries, the Christmas "Prose" was introduced in North European monasteries, developing under Bernard of Clairvaux into a sequence of rhymed stanzas. Traditionally, carols have often been based on medieval chord patterns. This is what gives them their uniquely characteristic musical sound. It was during the 13th Century under the influence of Saint Frances of Assisi the singing songs specifically about the Advent or Coming of Christ grew popular during the Christmas season. The Piae Cantiones is a collection of Christmas carols dating back to Theodoricus Petri, Finnish believer in 1538. This collection was given as a gift to John Mason Neale who translated several songs and published them in 1853. The songs include, Here is Joy For Every Age, Christ was born on Christmas Day, Good Christian Men, Rejoice, and Good King Wenceslas. It is thought the song O Come All Ye Faithful made popular in the 18th century may have lyrics originated as early as the 13th century. Christmas Carols gained great popularity after the Reformation and grew as publication became easier. Songs like God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, The First Noel, I Saw Three Ships, and Hark the Herold Angels Sing were published in 1833.
Completely secular Christmas songs emerged much later with Jingle Bells & Deck the Halls, but these songs weren't made popular until the late 1940s-50s when a big push was made by the commercial industry and Hollywood to increase retail sales.
Whatever Christmas Carol you are enjoying this year, may you know and remember the true reason of why the world sings... to celebrate God in the flesh being born to take away the sins of the world.
The Nicene Creed is the only Christian Creed accepted by all the major denominations. It has been approved by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Angelician and most Protestants churches. Officially recognized at the Council of Nicea in 325AD, the Nicene Creed has been a formal doctrinal statement of belief within the Christian church for almost sixteen hundred years.
The oldest surviving manuscript of the Creed dates back to the 5th Century. There are known variances in the Creed between the Council of 325 and 381AD. Just as with the Apostle's Creed, the term "Catholic" does not refer to the Roman Catholic church but rather represents the Greek work for "universal" church, because Christ does not have denominations. He only has One Church that is undivided in Him.
The Nicene Creed 325 AD
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down, and became incarnate and became man, and suffered, and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the heavens, and will come to judge the living and dead,
And in the Holy Spirit.
But as for those who say, There was when He (Jesus) was not, and, Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing,
or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance, or created, or is subject to alteration or change,
these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.
Nicene Creed as of 381
changes from 325 to 381 in red
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into existence,
Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down from the heavens,
and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures and ascended to heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father, and will come again with glory to judge living and dead, of Whose kingdom there will be no end;
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is together worshiped and together glorified, Who spoke through the prophets; in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church. We confess one baptism to the remission of sins; we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
The Filiquo cause (Filiquo being Latin, meaning "the Son") highlighted above in blue was added sometime in the beginning of the 6th century. This change reflects ongoing doctrinal development of explaining the identity of Christ and His relationship to the Holy Spirit and God, the Father.
As anyone can clearly see, there were substantial changes to the Nicene Creed in only 56 years. These changes reflect the Church trying to clarify its theology and guard against heresies of the day. As mentioned previously, this Creed in its current form from 381AD is the only Christian creed accepted by the majority of Christian denominations.
Recently, I inquired how many readers understood or knew the difference between the various Christian Creeds. The Apostles' Creed was the first creed or statement of beliefs held by the early Church. While not officially written by the Apostles, it is the oldest statement dating back to at least 140 AD.
The Apostles Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The Holy catholic Church,
the Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
The Apostles Creed served as a statement of faith for new believers in the early church. Later, it was introduced as part of the baptism process. Believers would recite the creed before their public baptism.
While the word "Catholic" is used in the original creed, it does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, the word "Catholic" is derived from the Greek word katholikos which means "universal" or "general." Thus, the creed's reference to the "Holy catholic Church" is a reference to the entire body of Christ, the universal fellowship of believers and not a single denomination.
Do you think the Apostles' creed is still relevant today in the Church? As a Christian, do you have any difficulty believing part of the Apostles' Creed, or do you agree in its accuracy? Does your church teach the early Christian creeds and their history? If you attend a church that teaches the Apostles' Creed, please list them below in the comments so others can find good churches teaching the history of our faith.
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