Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Hymn

As Christmas draws near, I would like to share with you, the 3 readers of this blog, what my favorite Christmas hymn is and why it is.

Title: Once in Royal David's City
Full number of verses: 6
Usually sung: At the beginning of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas eve, as a processional.

It begins, with a single soprano (most effective if it is a well-trained boy soprano from a boys choir) intoning the first verse a cappella:

Once in royal David's 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.

The choir joins in for the second and third verses, also usually sung a cappella:

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 Savior 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

At this point, the congregation and organ will usually join in for the 4th and 5th verses:

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 feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

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.

And then sometimes a trumpet will join in on a descant, or, if not, the soprano section will take on that role, for the sixth and final verse.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

It takes a very good choir director, with a well-trained choir, to get the full effect of this hymn, but if it is there, then by the end the entire church is ringing with the joyful strains of it. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. And I can't think of a more joyous way to celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

Sorry, folks, I didn't mean to preach. I don't usually get so sentimental (as you've probably realized) but at this time of year, I think we all need to rejoice and celebrate the season. Be grateful for family, friends, and good cheer, and have a very merry Christmas!

Oh, and you can see a very good performance of it here:

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