Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Micah 5:2
Words: Horatius Bonar, Hymns of the Nativity, and Other Pieces (London: James Nisbet, 1879), pages 1–4.
Night of wonder, night of glory,
Such as time has never seen!
Theme of old prophetic story,
Night all solemn and serene:
Sweetest silence, softest blue
That earth’s darkness ever knew!
Night of beauty, hour of gladness,
Of all nights the first and best;
Not a cloud to speak of sadness,
Not a star but sings of rest;
Holy midnight, showering peace,
Never shall thy radiance cease.
Happy city, dearest, fairest,
Lonely, tranquil, Bethlehem!
Least and lowliest, richest, rarest,
David’s city, Judah’s gem;
Out of thee there comes the light
That dispelleth all our night.
In thee Heav’n and earth are meeting;
Lo, there comes the angel throng;
We give back the heav’nly greeting,
Joining in the holy song—
Song of festival and mirth,
Song of morning to the earth.
Now to thee thy king descendeth,
Laid upon a woman’s knee;
To thy gates His steps He bendeth,
To the manger cometh He;
David’s Lord and David’s Son,
This His cradle and His throne.
All unconscious of the treasure
That within thy walls there lies,
Is it slumber, is it pleasure
That is sealing up thine eyes?
Canst thou not the grandeur see
Of that veilèd majesty?
All unwitting of the wonder
Wrought within thy gates tonight,
Art thou blind to Him who yonder
Sleeps unhonored—Prince of Light?
Thou thyself the cradle bed,
For the King of Glory spread!
He, the lowliest of the lowly,
To our tainted world has come;
He, the holiest of the holy,
Cannot find a human home.
All for us He has been born,
All for us He bears the scorn.
Babe of weakness, Child of grandeur,
At Thy stony crib we bow;
Not a trace of heav’nly splendor,
Yet the King of angels Thou!
Soon by earth to be adored,
As creation’s Heir and Lord.
Light of life, Thou liest yonder,
Mystery of mighty love;
Naught from Thee our souls shall sunder,
Naught from us shall Thee remove.
Take these hearts, and let them be
Throne and cradle both for Thee!
Bread of God, though yet unbroken,
Still e’en now the living Bread;
In that manger, lo, the token
Of the table to be spread
For us in the upper room,
When the longed for night is come.
Rose of Sharon, springing sweetly
In this sacred solitude,
Every gracious leaflet fitly
Folded in this tender bud;
All the beauty yet concealed,
All the fragrance unrevealed.
O’er Thy cradle we are bending,
Singing low our song of love,
Soon to sing the song unending
In the Bethlehem above;
Through the ages gazing on,
Not the cradle, but the throne.