Scripture Verse

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. Luke 2:8–9


John Byrom (1692–1763)

Words: John By­rom, 1745.

Music: York­shire John Wain­right, 1750 (🔊 pdf nwc).

If you know where to get a good pic­ture of Wain­right (head & shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els),

Origin of the Hymn

Byrom had sev­er­al child­ren, but his fa­vor­ite was his daugh­ter Dol­ly. In De­cem­ber 1745, after a romp with Dol­ly, he prom­ised to write her some­thing for Christ­mas; it was to be writ­ten es­pe­cial­ly for her, and no one else.

The de­light­ed Dol­ly re­mind­ed her fa­ther of his pro­mise each day as Christ­mas grew near­er.

On Christ­mas morn­ing, when she ran down to break­fast, she found sev­er­al pre­sents await­ing her. Among them was an en­ve­lope ad­dressed to her in her fa­ther’s hand­writ­ing.

It was the first thing she op­ened, and to her great de­light, it proved to be this Christ­mas ca­rol.

The orig­in­al ma­nu­script is head­ed Christ­mas Day for Dol­ly. It was first pub­lished in Har­rop’s Man­ches­ter Mer­cu­ry in 1746.


Christians, awake, sa­lute the hap­py morn
Whereon the Sav­ior of the world was born.
Rise to adore the mys­te­ry of love
Which hosts of ang­els chant­ed from above,
With them the joy­ful tid­ings first be­gun
Of God in­car­nate and the vir­gin’s son.

Then to the watch­ful shep­herds it was told,
Who heard th’an­gel­ic her­ald’s voice, Be­hold,
I bring good tid­ings of a Sav­ior’s birth
To you and all the na­tions of the earth;
This day hath God ful­filled His pro­mised Word;
This day is born a Sav­ior, Christ the Lord.

He spoke; and straight­away the ce­les­ti­al choir
In hymns of joy, un­known be­fore, con­spire;
The prais­es of re­deem­ing love they sang,
And Heav’n’s whole orb with al­le­lu­ias rang.
God’s high­est glo­ry was their an­them still,
Peace on the earth and un­to men good will.

To Beth­l’hem straight th’en­light­ened shep­herds ran
To see the won­der God had wrought for man
And found, with Jo­seph and the bless­èd maid,
Her son, the Sav­ior, in a man­ger laid;
Then to their flocks, still prais­ing God, re­turn,
And their glad hearts with ho­ly rap­ture burn.

Like Ma­ry let us pon­der in our mind
God’s won­drous love in sav­ing lost man­kind!
Trace we the Babe, who hath re­trieved our loss,
From His poor man­ger to His bit­ter cross,
Tread in His steps, as­sist­ed by His grace,
Till man’s first heav’n­ly state again takes place.

Then may we hope, th’an­gel­ic hosts among,
To sing, re­deemed, a glad tri­um­phal song.
He that was born up­on this joy­ful day
Around us all His glo­ry shall dis­play.
Saved by His love, in­ces­sant­ly we sing
Eternal praise to Heav’n’s al­migh­ty king.

Nativity Scene, 1905