Each year I compose or arrange music in celebration of Christmas. This year I have created three arrangements of familiar Christmas music, each introduced by a poem. The organ piece is based on a Reformation hymn tune famously set by Bach in his cantata of the same name. It was composed for submission to a competition in celebration of the renovation of the Grand Organ in the Cathedral Church of York Minster.

As the lyrics to the French carol, “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella,” tell us, “Christ is born!”

I wish you all a Merry Christmas.



Festal Fantasy on Wachet auf, Ruft uns die Stimmer

(awake, the voice is calling us)

Fill the bellows with the breath of song;
Pull the stops and set the music free;
Press the keys and hold them loud and long;
Let the pipes ring out in melody;

Send the treble on its trilly way;
Add the carol to the staff below;
Ground the bass with pedal’s deep array;
Loud and long so all the world can know.

Christ is born! The feast day of his birth!
Shout with diapason, flute and reed,
Sound redound until it sates the earth!
Deus incarnatus est, indeed!

Wachet auf, Ruft uns die Stimmer shall
Rise in praise to God as a chorale.






Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella

Rise, dear friends, and come with me;
Bring a torch—it isn’t far.
Mary’s calling, “Come and see.”
Night is dark, but there’s a star . . .

See how beautiful the mother!
See how beautiful the Son!
Praise the Godhead—Son and Father,
Holy Spirit—Three in One!

Mary, in her joy, is weeping
Hush! My friends, let’s gather ‘round;
For the Son of God is sleeping;
Where we stand is holy ground.

In the manger, see him slumber
While above us in the skies
Hosts of heaven without number
Sing angelic lullabies.

There is much in this to ponder
More than meets the eye, it seems,
So we watch and wait in wonder,
As the baby Jesus dreams.

Softly, now, we kneel before him,
May his love in us increase,
Let us evermore adore him
Lord and Savior, Prince of Peace.

In the dim light tinged with sorrow
See the sacrifice God gives.
Let us rise to greet the morrow
Serving Christ who died, yet lives.




We Wish You a Merry Christmas

A very Merry Christmas! May today
Bring blessings greater than the day before!
And in the baby Jesus’ name I pray
The coming year will bring you even more.




James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.

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12 Responses

  1. Cynthia Erlandson

    Lovely! The piece for the King of Instruments is especially wonderful! I didn’t know you composed music as well as poetry. What would Christmas be without music? Thank you!

  2. James A. Tweedie

    Ty Cynthia. Merry Christmas. As you imply it was the music of the angels that brought the shepherds to their knees before the newborn Lord. Christmas and music do indeed go together.

  3. Daniel Kemper

    Very, very pleasing. The first poem and Bach arrangement are nicely layered and nicely fit. And a pure, exuberant celebration of Christ is so refreshing!!!

  4. Allegra

    Thanks for your beautiful message in poems for Christmas day. Poetry and music together make Christmas a special joy.

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Simply magnificent! Thank you, James. Your talents are a Christmas gift.

  6. Margaret Coats

    The seven stanzas of “Bring A Torch” form a Christmas poem of fullest radiance. I remember learning to sing this song in French, and with all your echoes of its country piety, I don’t recall there being so much splendid doctrine and devotion in it.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Margaret, What you say is true. The French carol itself is simple and down to earth, matter of fact, and void of any incarnational introspection, especially as regards the village busybody who orders the women (this is, after all, one of the only carols or Christmas stories to show women at the nativity) to shut up and stop talking about how beautiful the baby is. “Shhhh, you idiots, you’ll wake the baby!”

  7. Peter Hartley

    James – as always I am in awe of your talents, both musical and poetic, of which these are a particularly awe-inspiring sample. The organ music is superb and it is so clever the way you segue seamlessly into and out of the music from that Bach chorale. If it didn’t win the York Minster competition prize I bet it should have done.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Actually, my organ piece has nothing to do with Bach except for the fact that I used the same hymn tune for my “Festal Fantasy” that he used for one of his more well-known cantatas. By coincidence, the piece that won the York Minster contest was a toccata based on the same tune, Wachet Auf.” Glad you liked it.

  8. C.B. Anderson

    All three poems, James, touched my heart, and the music brought me great joy. Thank you for this Christmas gift.

  9. David Watt

    James, your uplifting combination of music, poetry and faith is just the tonic we need, and certainly lifted my spirit, as it has for many.


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