In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Once in Royal David's City

This is the title of a Christmas hymn that is not as often heard in the United States as some others, such as Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, etc. The hymn is quite popular in the United Kingdom, and probably in Canada and other Commonwealth countries. It was published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys' hymnbook Hymns for Little Children. Since 1919, the King's College Chapel at Cambridge University has begun its Christmas Eve service, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, with Once in Royal David's City as the processional. The first verse is sung by a boy chorister as a solo; the second verse is sung by the choir; and the congregation joins in the third verse. Go here for a beautiful rendition of these parts of the hymn at St.Paul's Cathedral in London, England.
I have come to love Once in Royal David's City--not even so much for the music, which is lovely, but is sometimes performed a bit too bombastically. What I most admire about it are lyrics that are simple and in a child's language, yet are poignant and full of meaning (there are slightly different versions here and there, but this is the one I like best):
Once in royal Davids city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.
Is there anywhere a more beautiful expression of how the Lord shares our humanity, and how we must become like little children in order to return to Him?

No comments: