Advent Devotional Dec 20: Twas in the Moon of Winter Time

The Huron Carol (‘Twas In The Moon of Winter Time)

 Full song in English:


Tri-lingual version (not all verses sung in English):


‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled

That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;

Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.


Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;

A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round

But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.


The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair

As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.

The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.


O children of the forest free, O seed of Manitou

The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.

Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.


Words: Jean de Brebeuf, ca. 1643; trans by Jesse Edgar Middleton, 1926

Music: French Canadian melody (tune name: Jesous Ahatonhia)

So we talked last week about the nature of Christmas adopting new culture and fitting the story into the already present practices of that culture.  This song is a great example of making some translation of the story.  This is no traditional nativity but we turn shepherds into braves, and wise men into chieftains.  Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh turn into rabbit and beaver pelts.  The message however is retained in a way that would not be true if we left the story unaltered.  The story requires translation and it is for this reason that the Jesuit missionary who wrote in the 17th century changed aspects of the scene that is set by the birth narrative of Jesus.

So as I hear this song it makes me wonder.  What does the story look like for us today?  How do we make this story be a living story in our context? Immigrant workers called upon by Angels to tell the news?  Jesus born of a mom on welfare in public hospital? Who is it that attends this birth with gifts while politicians and religious authorities are too involved in “more important” conversations than attending to the injustice of the birth of this king in this way? 

One of the foundational concepts to the Protestant movement was that we tell the gospel in the vernacular of the day, to a be a people’s faith – that they may encounter the word for themselves unmediated by established human authorities.  So how are we re-telling this story today?  What does the birth narrative look like for us in our world?  Not what do we wish it would look like, but what makes the original story come ALIVE for us in a way that relates to our world, our lives, our culture retaining the significance of the original story? 

This much I think I know: God was born of and among the marginalized of the world, in the unexpected places, of unexpected people, and then lived and ministers in that same way.  If we are not making ourselves see into those cracks today, to the edges of our society, turning away from the powerful to walk besides the powerless then we likely to miss God’s birth and life which is lived under our very noses while we are looking in all the wrong places.

About Andrew Kukla

I am the proud father of four wonderful children, loving husband to Caroline, brother to three mostly wonderful sisters, and son of two parents that gifted me with a foundation of love and freedom. I also am a Presbyterian pastor and former philosophy major with a love of too many words (written with many grammatical errors and parenthetic thoughts), Soren Kierkegaard, and reflections on living a life of discipleship that is open to all the challenges, ups and downs, brokenness and grace, of a chaotic and wonderful life founded upon the love of God for all of creation.

Posted on December 20, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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