“Once in Royal David’s City” (ELW 269)
1 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.
2 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 meek and lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.
3 And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heav’n above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.
4 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;
there his children gather round,
bright like stars, with glory crowned.
This hymn from the mid-1800s has been used as part of the festival of lessons and carols at King’s College, Cambridge, since 1918. Even though many in the world have not sung it, the melody is well known because of the King’s College connection. Written to teach children, the message is clear, but not childish. The first verses of this hymn focus on the central events of Jesus birth, though leaving out angels, shepherds, and Magi. After recording the events of Jesus birth as a babe in a manger, the hymn turns the singer to recognize Jesus as the Savior of humankind. If we only look for Jesus in the manger, we miss all that he did in the world as he trekked back and forth across Galilee and we miss out on the hope of eternal life with Jesus that Christmas brings into the world.
Savior, help us to see in the familiar story the wonder and awe of a God who loves us enough to come and live with us. Amen.