THERE’S A SONG IN THE AIR                                                     written in 1872

The Story

There is something captivating about this simple Christmas hymn with its almost childlike wonder.

Our attention is first drawn to the heavens. We hear this song—the song of the angels singing “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). We see the star—the one that guided the magi in Matthew 2. Then we refocus our attention to the scene immediately around us. We see the mother in prayer and hear the cry of an infant. Heavenly events are pointing to the most humble of settings in a small, out-of-the-way village—the birth of a King!

Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881) was himself born in a poor, struggling family in Massachusetts. After working in a factory to help the family finances, he went to school, studying at Berkshire Medical College where he graduated in 1844. After attempting to establish a medical practice in western Massachusetts, he gave it up and moved to the south, taking teaching positions first in Richmond, Va., and then in Vicksburg, Miss.

His true calling was fulfilled in 1850 when he returned to Massachusetts to become an editor of the Springfield Republican newspaper. The essays Holland wrote for this paper under the pseudonym of Timothy Titcomb, in the decade before the Civil War, established his reputation as a writer. He published a historical novel, Bay Path(1857), and a collection of essays, Titcomb’s Letters to Young People, Single and Married (1858). After the Civil War, he reduced his duties at the newspaper and wrote a series of popular novels.

The final decade of his life was also his most productive, with three novels and three books of poetry. He died in New York City at age 62. Though very popular during his day—his published works sold more than half a million copies—he is remembered primarily as an editor.

This hymn was written in 1872. The tune was written by Karl Harrington. It appeared first in The Brilliant (1874), a collection of Sunday school songs.

The Song

            Read this Christmas Hymn, and – today – listen for that song in the air.

There’s a song in the air!  There’s a star in the sky!
There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth,
for the virgin’s sweet boy is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

In the light of that star lie the ages impearled;
and that song from afar has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame, and the beautiful sing
in the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!

We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song
that comes down through the night from the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
and we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!


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