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

Words: John By­rom, 1745.

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

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

Nativity Scene, 1905

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.