For the last twenty years or so, it’s been the Linton family custom to write a new carol during Advent and sing it together on Christmas Eve. Sometimes the texts are new (as in the case last year’s carol, “Winter’s Song” with a text by Joseph Bottum) but more frequently they are settings of old, but largely unfamiliar, poems.
The poet of this year’s carol is Louis Benson (1855-1930), who was a Presbyterian minister in Pennsylvania. But, what is a bit different this year is that we couldn’t decide between two tunes, so we’re offering them both. You can decide which you prefer (and we’ll sing both Christmas Eve).
Benson’s text has a particularly interesting twist at the end. His final lines are: “May catch far trumpets blowing, From far away, on Christmas Day, May hear God’s trumpets blowing.” Of course, in the Nativity stories, there are no trumpets. The angels don’t even sing, they “say”, and any good Sunday-schooled Protestant at the turn of the last century would know that. The trumpets blow at the Last Judgment. So, here at the end of the carol, Benson delivers a delft theological twist, taking us from the first Advent of Christmas to the second Advent of the Last Judgment, something that seems very Reformed.