Friday, December 26, 2008
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.
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, the scorned, the lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.
For he is our childhood's pattern,
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew.
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.
And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that Child who seemed so helpless
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing round,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
set at God's right hand on high;
Christ revealed to faithful eye,
set at God's right hand on high.
Just as in King's College, Cambridge, this is the way we begin our Lessons and Carols here with the boychoir. It doesn't seem to matter whether I'm singing it while processing into St. John's church, or listening to it on the radio in my kitchen--I always end up with tears in my eyes. It's a combination of text, music, tradition, little boys' voices joined by adults' and then those of the whole congregation, the simplest words describing the most amazing story ever told--and the fact that I believe what the song is saying--and I think glorious descants have something to do with it, also!
This little stained glass piece, attached to a votive candle holder, was Grandmother's. For a long time she kept it on her kitchen windowsill; that's where I always remember seeing it. I wonder where it came from. Maybe a friend gave it to her? Maybe she found it herself and bought it? Maybe she got it in Bethelehem when they were there in the early 70's? (I still wear the cross she brought me from that trip.)
I suppose I'll never know. And I don't know if she ever heard or sang "Once in Royal David's City." But this year I decided that sitting looking at this candle was the best way to listen to the song while it played on the radio.