For those of us (like me) who grew up in churches with no official formal liturgy, the term “collect” is likely unfamiliar. It simply means a general prayer, usually short, to be said by all the people together. The Book of Common Prayer has a number of very beautiful and powerful ones. Here is the 1662 ed.’s collect for Christmas Day:
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Here we have a Christmas song whose original tune might still be more famous than the new seasonal lyrics. “What Child is This?” is set to the old Renaissance love song “Greensleeves.” A series of folks songs and ballads about “the Lady Greensleeves” were written in England between 1580-1584. Often played on the lute, “Greensleeves” is a classic Renaissance “lover’s lament,” where the singer cries over lost love and longs for the day that he might win back his lady. I’m sure that this song was considered public domain and freely modified over the years. At one point it had 18 verses, each followed by the chorus. It’s still fairly common to hear this tune with no intended relation to the Christmas carol, and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about using this one in worship services. Still, it’s awfully pretty. Continue reading