A note about the definition of the word “carol.” In musical terms a carol is a song that has a refrain that repeats through each verse. Carols pre-1800 were associated with folk-dancing, especial with circle dances done by both men and women. The words to carols could be connected to any season of the year, not just Christmas, but they came to be thought of as Christmas songs because so much singing and dancing took place at all levels of society in the British Isles during the Twelve Days of the Christmas feast. Now, of course, “Christmas Carol” is applied far more widely, however I would say that the term really should be limited to songs that talk about the birth of Christ in some way; “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is not a Christmas carol!
Anyway, I hope and pray that this Advent time will be one of blessing and reflection as you prepare heart and mind to celebrate the birth of Our Lord twenty-five days from now.
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A Bidding Prayer
“Beloved in Christ, in this season of Advent, let it be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the Angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, to see the Babe lying in a manger. Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by his holy Child; and let us look forward to the yearly remembrance of his birth with hymns and songs of praise.
But first, let us pray for the needs of his whole world; for peace and goodwill over all the earth; for the mission and unity of the Church for which he died, and especially in this country and within this city.
And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us at this time remember in his name the poor and the helpless; the hungry and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; and all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.
Lastly, let us remember before God his pure and lowly Mother, and all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no one can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom, in this Lord Jesus, we for evermore are one.
These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the throne of heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us:
Our Father . . . .
The Almighty God bless us with his grace; Christ give us the joys of everlasting life; and unto the fellowship of the citizens above may the King of Angels bring us all. Amen.”
~ Advent Lessons and Carols, Book of Occasional Services
The Advent Matins Responsory by Palestrina, sung by the Choir of Magdalene College, Oxford.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLeTryubtQs (copy and paste into your browser).