Scripture Verse

There were…shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2:8


Harriet M. Kimball (1834–1917)

Words: Har­ri­et M. Kim­ball, in The New Do­min­ion Month­ly (Mont­re­al, Ca­na­da: John Dou­gall & Son, Jan­ua­ry through June 1871) pag­es 33–34, alt. From N. Y. In­de­pen­dent.

Music: A Lit­tle King­dom Alon­zo P. How­ard, 1873 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tunes:

If you know where to get a bet­ter pho­to of Kim­ball,


Beneath the dark, ex­pect­ant skies
While crowd­ed Beth­le­hem slept,
Their sleep­ing flocks in qui­et fields
The faith­ful shep­herds kept;
When round about them, sud­den­ly,
There shone a glo­ri­ous light,
And in the midst an an­gel stood,
Majestical and bright.

What mor­tal eye could look un­dazed!
What mor­tal ear could hear
The voice most sweet, most ter­ri­ble
In sweet­ness, with­out fear?
While on the wide Ju­de­an hills
The rev­er­ent winds were stayed,
Prostrate the hum­ble shep­herds fell,
For they were sore afraid.

Fear not; be­hold, I bring you joy!
The an­gel spake and smiled;
To you this day in Da­vid’s town
Is born the pro­mised Child;
A Sav­ior, even Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign—
Ye in a man­ger low­ly laid
Shall find the Ba­be divine.

And with the an­gel, lo! a host
Of shin­ing ones was seen,
Chanting, All glo­ry be to God,
As it hath ev­er been;
Glory to God, on earth be peace,
And un­to men good will,

They sang, in splen­dor van­ish­ing,
And all grew dark and still.

Amazed the shep­herds heard, and rose
And made with haste their way
To where, within the sta­ble walls,
The world’s Re­deem­er lay;
Nor wid­er space nor fair­er place
Had earth to spare for Him
Whose throne from ev­er­last­ing burned
Rayed round with se­ra­phim.

While soft­ly rain­ing out of Heav’n,
In sil­ver ca­denc­es
Flowed down those sweet an­gel­ic strains
Proclaiming joy and peace;
Her rap­ture swell­ing in­to tears,
The trem­bling mo­ther bent
Above her Child, her ho­ly One,
In awe and won­der­ment.

And if a cloud of ra­di­ance
Filled up the ho­ly place,
That cloud was dark­ness in her eyes,
Long-dwell­ing on His face;
Her tranc­èd vi­sion scarce with­drawn
When glad the shep­herds came,
Beheld the Babe and glo­ri­fied
The one eter­nal Name.

And was the Word, in­deed, made flesh?
O Everlasting Lord!
O Prince of Peace! O migh­ty God,
Forevermore ad­ored!
Who reck­on­ing un­reck­oned bliss
Cast all His glo­ry by
When from the pri­son house of sin
He heard the cap­tive cry!

O Love, that no cre­at­ed love
Can ev­er com­pre­hend,
Outreaching life’s dark ut­ter­most,
It bound the end­less end;
It con­des­cend­ed to the low
From height above all height,
And bo­somed in a blame­less babe
Brought into dark­ness light!

Wherever Christ­mas bells shall chime
And Christ­mas cheer go round,
Be grate­ful joy—not heed­less mirth—
In ev­ery dwell­ing found;
While faith un­veils her throb­bing breast
And clos­er folds with­in
The Ho­ly Child whose sin­less­ness
Hath an­swered once for sin.

The hum­blest home that He may find
The poor­est heart of earth,
Not mean­er is than Beth­le­hem’s stall
Made fair by Je­sus’ birth;
And light more mar­vel­ous shall stream
Into that house of clay,
Abiding and abound­ing more
Unto the per­fect day.

Comfort to an­swer all de­sire
And soothe the sharp­est pain,
A rest to wea­ri­ness, and ease
To such as do com­plain;
Bread to the hung­ry, and to them
That thirst a liv­ing well,
The Sav­ior with His need­iest ones
Doth most de­light to dwell.

He hon­or­eth not the place of pride,
But seek­eth low­ly doors,
And love, the sweet re­turn of love
Is all that He im­plores;
The love that wait­ing on His word
Doth ev­er­more in­crease,
And mag­ni­fy in dai­ly life,
The an­gels’ song of peace.

Wherever Christ­mas greet­ings flow
And Christ­mas cheer goes round,
Let cha­ri­ty in gra­cious deeds
And gra­cious thoughts abound;
And Zi­on, gar­land­ing her gates,
Put on her glad ar­ray,
And ce­le­brate with palms of joy
Emmanuel’s na­tal day.

O Christ most high! In­car­nate God!
Meek Babe of Beth­le­hem!
To whom all an­gels cry aloud,
Thy glo­ry sha­dow­ing them,
Hear, through the praise of Heav’n, the praise
Of Thy re­deem­èd earth
Whose des­ert plac­es yet shall sing
For joy of Je­sus’ birth!

Shepherds Abiding in the Fields
Carl H. Bloch (1834–1890)