A few years ago I channeled this frustration and in a personal attempt to begin to reclaim the carols. I began to search the history so that i would know more than "just knowing" the songs. I also found many alternate translations and musical versions of the standards.
Possibly my favorite find was this alternate version of O Holy Night.
O holy night! the stars are brightly shining-I love the way these lyrics tell the story of Jesus so well, that he was born lowly in a manger, left his place in heaven, would purchase our salvation on the cross, and he will return to rule and reign. I also, love the variation of the last lines in the verses "before the Lord most holy" "Repeat the wondrous story" and "with joy lift up your voices". I loved "repeat the wondrous story" that i wrote a song using that line as the chorus.
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining-
Till He appeared, gift of infinite worth!
Behold the Babe in yonder manger lowly-
'Tis God's own Son come down in human form:
Fall on your knees before the Lord most holy!
O night divine-O night when Christ was born!
O night divine-O night, O night divine!
With humble hearts we bow in adoration
Before this Child, gift of God's matchless love,
Sent from on high to purchase our salvation-
That we might dwell with Him ever above.
What grace untold-to leave the bliss of glory
And die for sinners guilty and forlorn:
Fall on your knees! repeat the wondrous story!
O day of joy, when in eternal splendor
He shall return in His glory to reign,
When ev'ry tongue due praise to Him shall render,
His pow'r and might to all nations proclaim!
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For soon shall dawn that glad eternal morn:
Fall on your knees! with joy lift up your voices!
Each time I've led this song i have people who respond positively to these alternate lyrics, but, I've also found it a good idea to warn the congregation, "this is a familiar carol, but follow along with us, as some of the words may be different than the ones you know."
If any of you readers know who to attribute these lyrics to, please let me know, as i cannot find that information anywhere, I'm not even sure where in the google world or stack of hymns i found them. And, if you use these lyrics please comment below and let us know how it went!