Christmas and Creativity
Many of the men who wrote the carols of old were theologians who had a deep grasp on the significance of Jesus’ birth. If you go past the first verse of some carols, you hear some magnificent truths about Jesus and the implications for mankind of His coming. One of my favorite hymns is Hark the Herald Angels Sing, which I never tire of listening to.
WHO WROTE IT?
All credit for Hark the Herald Angels Sing is usually attributed to Charles Wesley, the brother of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley. Charles was a prolific song writer, with almost 9,000 hymns to his credit. Charles only employed sombre, slow and solemn music for his lyrics, however, so this particular carol was sung to a tune other than we know today for at least 100 years after it was written in 1739.
In 1840, a man named Felix Mendelssohn wrote a commemorative cantata to honor Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. What does that have to do with this carol? Nothing except that a man named William Cummings heard the cantata and felt that one of the melodies could better serve the magnificent lyrics that Wesley had penned for Hark the Herald. Cummings adapted Mendelssohn’s melody to Wesley’s lyrics and the result was the version of Hark the Herald Angels Sing! that we know and sing today. So Hark the Herald is the result of a century-long creative collaboration by three men who never met over a period of 100 years!
This strikes me as a classic example of the simplicity and interconnection of the creative process. Your creativity doesn’t have to involve something completely new or original. Cummings took two existing things—Mendelssohn’s music and Wesley’s words—to create something new once again. He improved something that already existed to create something fresh that has impacted the world for more than a century.
As we end 2013, I am planning my creative expressions for 2014, which include a Purpose Bible, my next book, a new daily devotional, and starting a publishing company. I am a creative person, and so are you! The ideas you have can change the world, if you will stop discounting them as meaningless or insignificant. You don’t have to invent something totally new to qualify as creative; you just have to act on your ideas and release them to the world. With God as your agent, the world will then act to endorse the very creativity that you may be dismissing or taking for granted.
Do you have any good ideas, even if they are only to improve something that already exists? If you do, take heart and remember Wesley, Mendelssohn, and Cummings. Those three men who never met collaborated to create something memorable. There is no reason why you and I can’t do the same.
Originally published on The Monday Memo.