Today's tidbit is the difference between a hymn and a carol. A hymn praises or offers praise to God, and is generally joyful and reverent in its musical tone. It's lyrics also tend to be instructive, and it is not uncommon for the content of a hymn to be based on on a scriptural text. For instance, the Advent hymn Prepare the way, O Zion:
Prepare the way, O Zion, your Christ is drawing near!
Let every hill and valley a level way appear.
Greet One who comes in glory, foretold in sacred story,
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God's most holy name.
is based on the Gospels of Mark (1:3) and John (1:23), that harken back to the prophet Isaiah, "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God" (40:3).
A carol, on the hand, is narrative in nature. Stemming from the medieval mystery play the carol is designed to teach the Christian story of the Incarnation to those who could not read. Like stained glass windows, the carol shares the story by means other than the written word. For instance, the Christmas carol Away in a manger:
Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
Make sense? I'll try to me a bit more mundane tomorrow. Cheers!