Like Whitfield’s ignoring Wesley’s instructions concerning words, so Cummings ignored Mendelssohn’s directions concerning music. Therefore, for Christmas 1856, Cummings put Wesley’s words (as amended by Whitfield) to Mendelssohn’s tune, thus giving us the Christmas carol that we sing today.
In following through these meditations, or at least following through the carol itself, we sing the gospel message. Singing half a carol is like reading only half a book or watching only half of a movie – we never truly get to the end.
Within this history of the carol, we should be able to see the history of the Christmas story itself – simple religious people, marginalized Jews, atheists, and censorious religious authorities all making their own contribution.