Love Came Down at Christmas
Text by: Christina Rossetti
Tune: Garton, a traditional Irish melody
Available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xIxpdcuAHJo
Additional reading: https://www.andrewremillard.com/2018/01/03/in-the-bleak-midwinter/
Book available: https://amzn.to/38rW9VQ
- Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
star and angels gave the sign.
- Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
worship we our Jesus:
but wherewith for sacred sign?
- Love shall be our token,
love shall be yours and love be mine,
love to God and to all men,
love for plea and gift and sign.
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) grew up in London, England. Her father was exiled from Italy and taught at King’s College in London. Her brothers, Dante and William, were artists and founders of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement. Christina often served as a model for their paintings. Charles Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll was a family friend and the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
This poem first appeared untitled in “Time Flies: A Reading Diary” in 188. “Graton” is the only tune which has been associated to any extent with this poem. However, many have written their own settings, such as John Kelsall, Leo Sowerby, Harold Drake and John Rutter more recently. The poem itself is simple and direct and has been one of the most listened to of all my nearly 300 Advent and Christmas hymns this year.
This hymn is based on I John 4:7-11.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
The incarnation is the ultimate demonstration of love and both the hymn and this passage explore the meaning of this love in all its forms; its presence and its absence; its function as a noun and a verb; and ultimately as a command. All of this is expressed in the simplest of words almost entirely made up of one or two syllable words. Words a child could easily understand whether that child was 8 or 80.