Bob Bennett | Christmastide

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Holiday: Folk Folk: Gentle Moods: Type: Acoustic
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by Bob Bennett

Warm vocals, precise guitar. Over half newly written songs with interesting covers of oft-overlooked music of the Season. Long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners, long talks ... wait, where am I? Oh yeah. Sorry. Buy the download, OK?
Genre: Holiday: Folk
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  Song Share Time Download
1. God with Us
4:06 $0.99
2. Brightest and Best
4:07 $0.99
3. Come Thou Not Expected Bossa
5:48 $0.99
4. It May Not Have Been December
3:42 $0.99
5. Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
5:37 $0.99
6. The First Noel
1:14 $0.99
7. Christmas for Cynics
3:13 $0.99
8. Both Things
3:25 $0.99
9. Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
2:09 $0.99
10. December MIA
4:14 $0.99
11. O Come All Ye Faithful
1:24 $0.99
12. I Saw Three Ships
2:50 $0.99
13. Carol of the Moon and Stars
3:15 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
In writing and recording these songs, my fondest hope is that this collection may find a comfortable place among your family’s Musical Christmas Ornaments. May the Peace of God our Heavenly Father, given through His only Son, and borne by His Holy Spirit be with you far beyond this Season. From my Family to you and yours: Happy Christmastide! Bob Bennett (2009)

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W/M: Bob Bennett
(c) 2009 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)

Make wide the way and straight the path
God with Us
He comes in mercy, not in wrath
God with Us

Behold an ancient mystery
God stepping into history
Hail the incarnate deity
God with Us

Good will to men and peace on earth
God with Us
He comes to us by humble birth
God with Us

Clothed alike in flesh and bone
He comes to make His Father known
His Spirit says we're not alone
God with Us

God with Us
Because we fell
Yeshua Hamashiach
God with Us
It was always meant to be
God with Us
With you, with me

Innocent as a Newborn Child
God with Us
The souls of sinners reconciled
God with Us

From Bethlehem to Calvary
Come to set the captives free
That every grave might empty be
God with Us

God with Us
What a story to tell
Jesus Christ
Our Emmanuel
The lame will dance
The blind will see
God with Us
With you, with me

Not by merit do we proclaim
He is fully God and fully Man
Blessed be His Name
For the Eternal One
Has surely kept his Vow
To be God with Us
Here and now

So light the lights and trim the tree
God with Us
A holiday with a mongrel pedigree
God with Us

But at the heart of why we're here
The morning after midnight clear
Reverence replaces fear
God with Us

God with Us
Our hearts compel
Our worship of the Living God
May His Spirit give
Open eyes to see
God with Us
With you, with me

God with Us!

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Words: Reginald Heber
Music: James P. Harding (Morning Star)
Public Domain

Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all!

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Fragrance of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Hail the blest morn, when the Great Mediator,
Down from the regions of glory descends;
Shepherds, go worship the babe in the manger.
Lo, for His guard, the bright angel attends.

Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

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Traditional ?!?

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W/M: Bob Bennett
© 2007 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)

Historians say it was a different day
When Jesus was born long ago
For shepherds in fields at night
Would not have been a winter sight
What season it was we cannot know

But a calendar date
Is not the thing we celebrate
It's the miracle of mercy we remember
When God the Son wore human skin
To save us from our sin
Though it may not have been December

Astronomers suppose a planet arose
Venus on a clear night, not a star
No anomaly of astronomy
Without a telescope to see
The naked eye can only go so far

But whatever glowed that night,
God proclaimed "Let there be light"
And we are living in creation's burning embers
For the One whose wounds were planned
Stretched out a Baby's hand
Though it may not have been in December

It's not that facts don't really matter
It's a question of what really matters more
In an endless war of words,
The Good News goes unheard
And we set aside what Christmastide is for

There are those who say there are countless ways
The life of the spirit is expressed
You can take your choice
Of any truth, any voice
Keep only what you choose and lose the rest

But the God of Eternity
Stepped into history
As humankind's first immortal member
Now goodwill comes to all the Earth
At our Blessed Savior's birth
Though it may not have been December

It may not have been in December

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Words: Anonymous (Collection of Joshua Smith, NH, 1784)
Music: Elizabeth Poston
© 1967 Cambridge University Press (ASCAP)
Arranged and adapted by Bob Bennett
Choir Arrangement by Larry Nickel
This arrangement © 2009 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasures dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

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6. Guitar Interlude: THE FIRST NOEL

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Bob Bennett
© 2009 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)

There's no chestnuts roasting
That's a holiday crock
No open fires are burning
Anywhere on my block
When the season comes around
It happens annually
It's time for Christmas for Cynics for me

All the decorations
Are stashed up in the attic
Dad's on top the ladder
That's problematic
There's a guest list full of people
I don't really want to see
It's time for Christmas for Cynics for me

Each year when the guy with red suit comes knocking
I always get the same lump of coal in my stocking
Someone's spinning a yarn about homemade sweaters
And people mailing mass-produced personal letters

We count the shopping days
And hide the stuff we've bought
Christmas all year 'round
Good Lord, perish the thought!
Soon we'll all get back to normal
Just you wait and see
After Christmas for Cynics for me

Mr. Scrooge bears some scrutiny
Mr. Potter's got a point
Table for three at Club Misery
We'll close down the joint
"It's a Wonderful Life"
But only on TV
'Cause it's Christmas for Cynics for me

If life were like a movie, here's how the plot would go
I'd get wise and realize I'm a sour so-and-so
Music would swirl around my great epiphany
Not a dry eye at Christmas for Cynics for me

If you pass me on the street
And extend a one-way greeting
Chances are great I'm running late
To a support group meeting
It's a lifelong addiction, a habitual affliction
And I'm only telling you where I'm heading to
And that I'm hoping for recovery
From Christmas for Cynics for me
Christmas for Cynics for me

Christmas for Cynics ... like me!

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Bob Bennett
© 2009 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)

Every glory wrought by flesh and blood
Will someday be brought low
Every tongue shall confess on bended knee
Every heart and mind shall know

For the whole of the Spoken Universe
Unceasing chorus brings
For The Holy Son of God is Man
And forever is both things

Though not confined to dates or feasts
We celebrate them just the same
To join with those who have gone ahead
To give glory to God's name

Throughout our days, we pass these signs
In the footsteps of paupers and kings
For our salvation is finished, but it's never done
And forever is both things

Oh, we're living in a contradiction
Yet our questions are always either/or
To this convenient fragment of fiction
God answers both/and and more

It's easy to love a newborn Child
A blessed Baby in a manger
But the Man that Infant grew up to be
Can sometimes become a stranger

Whether Lamb of God at Eastertide
Or the Savior that Christmas brings
Jesus, the same yesterday, today
And forever is both things

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Words: Traditional
Music: John Gardner

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love,
Oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance.

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father's voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance.

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© 2009 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)

It seems that I’ve lost December
I must have misplaced it somehow
It should've been here, right where I left it last year
Oh, what will I do now?

Shortly after Thanksgiving
I had a sneaking suspicion
Was this a calendar prank or was I drawing a blank
When the year's last month changed position

I posted flyers all over town
Have you seen this month, reward if found
Dressed up for winter, last seen at my door
I can't remember if December has ever run away before

By way of description, it’s thirty one days
But they always go by pretty quick
All the other months are beside themselves
And some of them are worried sick

I decided to make door-to-door rounds
Have you seen this month, reward if found
I asked about Hanukkah and Christmas Day
Will there be a New Year's Eve if December is MIA?

The shopkeeper complained “Don’t bother me,
I’ve got way too much stress and inventory.”

I went to the fireman and all he would say,
“Check your wiring and water your tree every day.”

A neon-vested lady knew not of the loss
She just held up a stop sign so children could cross

The policeman, he told me in this situation
I should call the desk sergeant down at the station

It seems that I’ve lost December
I must have misplaced it somehow
It should've been here, right where I left it last year
Oh, what will I do now?
Oh, what will I do now?

Now that December has gone away
December MIA

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11: Guitar Interlude: O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

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Arranged & Adapted by Bob Bennett
© 2009 Bright Avenue Songs (SACAP)

I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And who was in those ships all three?
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
And who was in those ships all three?
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Our Saviour Christ and Mother Mary,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
Our Saviour Christ and His Lady,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
Over land and on the sea
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Oh, they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
The breath of God, it carried them,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Let all the angels in heaven sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
While every bell on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Let every living soul rejoice,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
And join together with one voice,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Then let us all give thanks again,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
Then let us all give thanks, amen,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

On Christmas Day in the morning.

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W/M: Bob Bennett
© 2008 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)
(Written 12/14/08)

Countless witnesses
In a Christmas sky
See the Architect of Everything
Passing by
From deep Heaven to Earth
By a virgin Birth
Sing a Carol of the Moon and Stars

Which light in the sky
Will the stargazers see
Bright-as-sun on the Sea
... of Tranquility?
Across black volcanic sand
Shells scattered by His hand
Sing a Carol of the Moon and Stars

Look up!
The scientist and poet open-jawed
Look up!
See the chaos and precision
... of the Living God
All creation is upheld
And, through time propelled,
Sings a Carol of the Moon and Stars

Each miracle nativity,
Such a common sight
Like the sky drowned out
By manmade light
Would that every child born
Be as welcome as a Christmas morn
To sing a Carol of the Moon and Stars

Oh God, it is my blessing
And my constant curse
To live as though I am
My own universe
But if You should be so kind
To illuminate my heart and mind
I'd sing a Carol of the Moon and Stars
A Carol of the Moon and Stars

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My friend David Jennings sent me a book of essays about the period of Advent-to-Epiphany titled "God with Us". I packed the book in my briefcase on my second (of three) trips to Canada to record. To this day, I've only read about ten pages. Not because it wasn't good, but because it's VERY good and a little goes a long way. I don't think I lifted anything verbatim from the book, but its proximity to the writing of this song (another early-AM-in-a-hotel deal) convinces me it was it in the mix of my thinking.

Roy Salmond brought me this wonderful Epiphany Carol. In the later stages of my Adventures in the Faith, I have become a habitual and grateful "Twelve Days of Christmas" guy. When everyone else is packing up the decorations and hurtling headlong into New Year's, I'm happy to be part of that now-almost-secret society that celebrates Christmas right through January 6th. It's fun. Do some reading about it and try it one Season. You'll never limit yourself to just December 25th ever again!

I've often played this song as an instrumental to warm up during sound checks, played in the rather straight classical-style that begins this version. One day I decided to throw appropriate musical caution to the wind and see what a "bossa nova" feel might do to the piece. It seemed like great fun and I launched right in. For a little variety, I grafted in another verse of a familiar carol for a bridge. I dedicate this to my dear friend and fingerstyle guitarist extraordinaire John Standefer. He definitely could have played all of this better, but I hope he enjoys it still. I must also give a nod to Mason "Classical Gas" Williams, whose range and creativity always went far beyond that familiar piece. He was a true Renaissance Man for me when I barely knew what that might have meant. Finally, John Patitucci brings world-class bass playing to the proceedings and he is still one of nicest and dearest heavyweight musicians I will ever know! He was a close friend and collaborator with Roby Duke as well ... so that connection also made perfect sense!

I simply wanted to address the respectful and credible notion that the actual date of December 25th might not be the date of the Nativity. The bridge explains a little of why I think the date of the Incarnation is way less important than the Event itself.

I recorded this song on 1997's "Small Graces" without a guitar in the mix. It was crossed off the song list early in my thinking because, with the exception of my re-recordings on "The View from Here", I generally hesitate to revisit and reinvent older things. I've heard too many remakes-by-the-same-artist that were embarrassing and ill-advised. Still, Roy encouraged me: "If you haven't recorded it with your guitar, you haven't really recorded your definitive version yet". So I went back to my hotel room, changed the key and feel ... and we recorded it the very next day. I dearly love the imagery in this song. Although it is not particularly 'Christmas-y", it seems to only be performed as part of the Seasonal Repertoire. I think it's an all-year-round song, though. Larry Nickel arranged the choir singing and took it to whole 'nother level that was/is far beyond my musical reach.

A short instrumental interlude on high-string guitar.

This is another early morning wake-up-with-lyrics song. It simply crossed my mind in the haze between sleeping and waking to have some fun with all the bad-attitude aspects of the Season. Things you think but aren't supposed to say. After that premise was percolating, the lyrics came pretty quickly. It took a couple months for Internal Editor Guy to bring it all together, but it was pretty fun from start-to-finish. For my more sensitive listeners, I always introduce this song by assuring the audience: "No actual holidays were harmed during the writing of this song!"

Certainly there are yes/no, right/wrong, this-not-that aspects to the lives we live. But sometimes things are complicated and do not lend themselves to easy explanations. In our rush to simplify things (often for the sake of clear communication) or to dumb things down (because we appoint ourselves the guardians of complex truths yet don't trust others to equally understand them), we are suspicious of nuance. We bristle at one of the most important phrases in the vocabulary of the Spiritual life: "I don't know." The mystery of the Incarnation is one of those things that can sometimes seem crystal clear and obviously to our benefit. Other times we feel the frustration of, in Biblical parlance, "looking through a glass darkly." This song is a modest attempt to address some of the push-and-pull of revealed Truth and to celebrate the notion that God has it all straight even if we don't.

I've wanted to record this since the mid-90's when I found it and "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" on the same CD (Google the UPC: 028944557220 ... Christmas Carols / Preston, Choir of Westminster Abbey). The song has a bunch of verses, but the first four are traditionally the ones sung at Christmas. I love the device of Christ narrating His own life story. Outside of and not restricted by a timeline, He not only recites the facts but tells us Why: " ... this have I done for my true love." Song of Solomon metaphorically meets the Christmas Season. And so I'm enthralled and in Love with Him ... as He first affirms His love for me. Not by speaking words only, but by being the Word Made Flesh. Merry Christmas, indeed! This arrangement is mostly based on John Gardner's classic rendering.

I don't quite know where this one came from. The idea of "losing December" was initially a notion of being too busy to engage the Season as it came and went. Over the years, the familiar refrain has been "It just doesn't feel like Christmas." Of course I courted the idea of resolving the situation and having a tearful reunion between Man and Month. But I decided to leave it where it was and let listeners find (or, perhaps, even not find) their place in the lyric.

A short instrumental interlude on high-string guitar.

I've always loved this song. Over recent years, the versions I've taken to heart were recorded by Bruce Cockburn and Dan Fogelberg. As I began to research the origins of the carol online and to read an interview where Cockburn addressed his own fondness for the song, I developed my own arrangement and adapted the lyric. The original lyric is fairly structured and repetitive which is not a bad thing at all. But I wanted to consolidate some of my favorite parts of the lyric, add some additional lines that I thought might provide a little more narrative color, and to develop a guitar accompaniment that would be a little different. The carol is not intended to be a theological or doctrinal primer. To me, the song enables a joyful celebration that makes perfect emotional sense even if it does not totally add up to a linear thought-follows-thought process.

There are two distinctive things about this song. The first is quite odd but, nonetheless, true. I was lamenting to Canadian screenwriter Stefan Wrenshall that I was very much in the desert with my own songwriting and lack of creativity. He enthusiastically recommended I read Stephen King's book "On Writing". Although I'd seen several films based on King's works, I confess to never having read a single novel. Even with that ignorance, I still found him to be a fine and encouraging companion as I read the book which is equal parts literary memoir and a nuts-and-bolts approach to the craft of writing. He helpfully suggests that a first draft be written with the office door closed, the second draft with the door open. Which I take to mean a certain reckless abandon at simply getting things down first while the Ruthless Editor part of you is bound, gagged and out of the picture. The "door open" means your awareness that others will be let in to what was heretofore your private domain and it makes sense to be as good a host to them as possible. (Perhaps I'm taking too many liberties with what he meant, but that's what I took away from that bit.)

As I've mentioned elsewhere, this song was also an early-morning, between sleeping-and-waking operation. As with "Three Ships" I think there is an emotional, non-linear undercurrent here. I did try to string together some cogent thoughts, but the feel is as important as the message communicated. The last verse confesses my always-present and nearly fatal self-centeredness. This awareness is what finally ushered me into a more serious life in pursuit of Faith in 1977.

It is still my pursuit for the duration of my earthly days … and, hopefully, beyond that!



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