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Book Description

10 Oct 2005 Stories Behind Books
These true, fascinating stories of the inspiration, heartache, trials, and faith that inspired some of the greatest Christmas carols, hymns, and popular songs will enrich the joy and celebration of the Christmas season.

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From the Back Cover

Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you’ve never met, stories you’ve never heard, and meanings you’d never have imagined.

The next time you and your family sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," you’ll have a new understanding of its message and popular roots. You’ll discover how "Angels from the Realms of Glory," with its sublime lyrics and profound theology, helped usher in a quiet revolution in worship. You’ll learn the strange history of the haunting and powerful "O Holy Night," including the song’s surprising place in the history of modern communications. And you’ll step inside the life of Mark Lowry and find out how he came to pen the words to the contemporary classic "Mary, Did You Know?"

Still other songs such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" trace back to mysterious origins--to ninth-century monks, nameless clergy, and unknown commoners of ages past. Joining hands with such modern favorites as "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song," they are part of the legacy of inspiration, faith, tears, love, and spiritual joy that is Christmas.

From the rollicking appeal of "Jingle Bells" to the tranquil beauty of "Silent Night," the great songs of Christmas contain messages of peace, hope, and truth. Each in its own way expresses a facet of God’s heart and celebrates the birth of his greatest gift to the world--Jesus, the most wonderful Christmas Song of all.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Angels, from the Realms of Glory"—possibly the best-written, sacred Christmas carol of all time—helped launch a revolution that continues to impact millions of lives today. At its heart is its writer, an Irishman born in November of 1771.
James Montgomery was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland. Montgomery’s father, John, was an Irish Moravian missionary. When his parents were called to evangelistic work in the West Indies, the child was sent to a Moravian community in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland. By the time he was seven, James was at Fulneck Seminary, Yorkshire, England. Five years later, the parents James hardly knew died on the mission field.
Perhaps because of the distance from and the tragic loss of his parents, Montgomery never was very interested in his schooling. Flunking out of seminary, he became a baker’s assistant for a short time. By the age of twenty, the young man was little more than a vagrant, moving from job to job, often unemployed, and homeless for weeks at a time.
Montgomery’s only interest was writing. He spent what little money he had on pencils and paper, taking hours to com-pose poetic odes on everything from loneliness to faith. Though no publisher was interested in his work, the radical editor of the Sheffield Register saw something in the young man’s raw talent. For the next two years Montgomery got paid to do what he most loved to do—write stories. He also learned firsthand about the hardships of being an Irishman under English rule. At the age of twenty-three, when the newspaper’s owner was run out of town for writing radical editorials concerning Irish freedom, the missionary’s son took over the Register.
In an attempt to quell the British government’s wrath, Montgomery changed the paper’s name to the Sheffield Iris. Yet he didn’t change its editorial stance. Just as his parents had strongly rebelled against the strict rules and rituals of England’s official church, James was bent on carrying on a written war for Ireland’s freedom. At about that time, he also became an active leader in the abolitionist movement. His fiery editorial stance twice landed him in prison. Yet each time he was released, he returned to the Iris and continued his printed war for freedom on all fronts.
When Montgomery was not waging an editorial crusade against English rule and slavery, he was reading his Bible in an attempt to understand the power that motivated his parents’ lives and ultimately led to their deaths. In time, his Scripture study and rebellious zeal would blend and send the young man on a new mission. One of the first hints of this change was revealed on Christmas Eve 1816.
Irishmen, who hated all things British, probably carefully studied the newspaper each day, hoping to find some Montgomery- penned passage that would inspire more to join their revolution. It is certain that local government officials who read the Iris often wished to nail the man who was so often a thorn in their side. Yet on December 24, 1816, readers discovered a different stance from the fiery editor. On that day, his editorial did not divide Irish from English, but rather brought everyone who read the Iris closer together.
Written in the same poetic verse that Montgomery had employed during the aimless wanderings of his youth, "Nativity"— what would eventually become the carol "Angels, from the Realms of Glory"—told the story of angels proclaiming the birth of a Savior for all people, English and Irish, rich and poor, Anglican and Moravian. Eloquent, beautiful, and scripturally sound, Montgomery soon touched more lives for Christ with the stroke of his pen than his parents did in all their years of missionary work.
Still, when read between the lines, there was a bit of social commentary in "Nativity." A verse long-deleted from the carol speaks of a society that needs to right some wrongs. That lost stanza also reveals the writer’s personal journey in finding purpose and meaning in his own life:

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence;
Mercy calls you. Break your chain.

As Montgomery would soon find out, his poem would break chains, but not those he had envisioned. The impact of "Nativity" would actually foreshadow the writer’s future, since he would come to revolutionize music and thinking in the English church.
As often is the case with inspired work, irony stepped in and took an important role in revealing "Nativity" to a mass audience.

Angels, from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ the newborn King.
Shepherds in the fields abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light.
Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star.
Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.

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Angels, from the Realms of Glory"-possibly the best-written, sacred Christmas carol of all time-helped launch a revolution that continues to impact millions of lives today. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  53 reviews
116 of 122 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy research 1 Mar 2006
By Rich Rogers - Published on
For someone with 50 books to his credit--as per the dust jacket--Collins is highly sloppy in the research of this book. As has been previously noted, he just presented a common story about the origins of "Silent Night" without necessarily having done any deep research. And the comments about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" come straight from a silly internet piece, with no basis in fact.

This is common throughout this book. It seems more often than not, Collins has just done some cursory internet research and then slapped it all together and called it good.

Some other screw-ups: Irving Berlin was worried that "White Christmas" wasn't really a good song. Actually Berlin, upon introducing it to his office staff and musical secretary, refered to it as "not only the greatest song I've ever written, but the greatest song ever written." Berlin at one point had plans to make White Christmas the main production number in a major Broadway revue. In performing it for Crosby and studio execs, Berlin got nervous with himself and choked in performing it. You can read about this in Jody Rosen's excellent book on White Christmas, called "White Christmas."

As for his assertions about the meaning and origin of the term Merry in merry Christmas, he gets it wrong again. Ten minutes in the Oxford English Dictionary, available at any decent public library, would have given him the answers.

Better Books on this subject are Rosen's afforementioned book and "The Penguin Book of Christmas Carols" ed. Ian Bradbury.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful book! 23 Nov 2001
By R. C. Luther - Published on
I really enjoyed this book. It was so interesting to hear the stories behind all the Christmas songs. The only reason I rated it a four is that not all the song lyrics are included. Even when it is a song I know by heart, I liked reading through the words, especially songs that have several verses that we don't always sing. Very sweet, easy to read, and interesting.
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fascinating book! 22 Dec 2002
By Soozie4Him - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I heard about this book by listening to WMBI in Chicago the week before Christmas. They had the author on, telling one Christmas carol song per day. Immediately I purchased the book, and am thoroughly enjoying it!
Ace tells the stories of 31 favorite Christmas songs. They aren't all traditional carols, but include "Mary Did You Know", and a couple of secular-based Christmas songs such as "Silver Bells" and "Rudolph". I would love to know where Mr. Collins got all his information - there is no Bibliography.
The book itself is very attractive - you can see what the cover is like above, but inside, the print is a deep blue, and there are simple drawings and borders using the same blue. This makes it very visually appealing.
The best way to read "Stories Behind the Best-Love Songs of Christmas" would probably be to read one chapter per day for the 31 days before Christmas. But you can also read it straight through, or dip into the chapter that talks about YOUR favorite Christmas song.
As a perfect companion to Ace Collins' book, I recommend "Christ in the Carols" by Christopher and Melodie Lane. In this book, the emphasis is on finding Christ in the carols and how these carols express so beautifully the glorious and mysterious incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Take the time out this Christmas to enjoy the history and meaning of these beloved songs of Christmas! This book would make a wonderful gift!
You might be interested in checking out my other reviews of Christian books adn music.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Add it to your research - but don't use it as a sole source. 10 Nov 2010
By J. Froomkin - Published on
Another reviewer points out the this author seems to weave fairy tales into his narrative. That's exactly the problem. There is often a core of fact in what he's describing - but he weaves about half a page of fact into a fanciful two and half pages which he crams with spiritual extrapolation. He adds a subtext to almost every story that is his own agenda...putting thoughts into the composers head and words into their mouth which are obviously fabricated. It's frustrating - because if he had gone with "Just the facts, Maam" it would have been one of the most useful books out there on the subject. Instead, when i'm researching a carol, I have to cross check it with several other sources to make sure he hasn't completely invented part of a story.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dashed hopes instead of snow 2 Dec 2010
By penandra - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had high hopes for this selection. I love Christmas carols and thought that having the stories behind them would be fun. However, of the first three "chapters" that I read (I'll be Home for Christmas, White Christmas, and the Twelve Days of Christmas), the research is sloppy, incorrect, and incomplete. Other reviewers have detailed the problems with White Christmas. A simple search on the Urban Legend dubunking site of will show problems with the Twelve Days of Christmas writeup. And then there's my favorite, I'll be Home for Christmas. While the story is nice, adding yet one more error (assuming that lyricist "Kim Gannon" is female) to the list already detailed causes one to question the validity of anything in the entire book. The lyrics for this song were written by James "Kim" Gannon (male). This book would have benefited from better research AND better proofreading. Luckily I picked it up for free for the Kindle. If it's still available for free, it's maybe worth the download for some of the stories, but before passing on any information to others, it's best to do a quick google search to validate that you are not just perpetuating a legend.
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