The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Child Is Born in Bethlehem

For Christmas

Words and Music: Puer natus in Bethlehem, a 14th Century Latin Hymn
See Puer natus in Bethlehem from Dreves, with notes.

Source: Philip Schaff, ed., Christ In Song, Hymns of Immanuel Selected from All Ages, With Notes. (London: Samson Low, Son, and Marston, 1870), pp. 38-39.

Music: "Puer Natus in Bethlehem"
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Meter: 8,8

1. A CHILD is born in Bethlehem;
Rejoice and sing, Jerusalem.
Within a manger He doth lie.
Whose throne is set above the sky.
Hallelujah! hallelujah!

2. The wise men came, led by the star;
Gold, myrrh, and incense brought from far.
The ox and ass beheld that sight;
The creature knew the Lord of might.1
Hallelujah! hallelujah!

3. His mother is the Virgin mild,
And He the Father's only child.
The serpent's wound He beareth not.
Yet takes our blood, and shares our lot.
Hallelujah! hallelujah!

4. Our human flesh He enters in,
But free from every stain of sin.
To fallen man himself He bowed,
That He might lift us up to God.
Hallelujah! hallelujah!

5. On this most blessed jubilee,
All glory be, O God! to Thee.
O Holy Three, we Thee adore,
This day, henceforth, for evermore.
Hallelujah! hallelujah!

Footnote 1 by Schaff:

1 "Cognovit bos et asinus Quod puer erat Domiuns." The mediæval legend of the ox and ass recognizing and worshipping the Lord whom the Jews ignored and rejected, figures prominently in Catholic pictures of the holy family. It rests upon a fanciful interpretation of Isa. i. 3 (" Cognovit bos possessorem suum, et asinus prsepe domini sui") and Hab. iii. 2 ("In medio duorum animalium iunotesceris"), which was understood as a prophetic allusion to the manger of Bethlehem.

Preface Note from Schaff.

A Joyous Christmas hymn of the fourteenth century, which continued in use, in the Lutheran churches of Germany, wellnigh to this day. Other English versions by R. F. Littledale [A Child Is Born In Bethlehem], Mrs. Charles [The Child Is Born In Bethlehem], and others. The Latin in Daniel, I. 334 [Puer Natus in Bethlehem]; Trench, p. 97 [Puer natus in Bethlehem]. Wackernagel (“Das Deutsche Kirchenlied," vol. i. p. 198-200), gives ten forms of this hymn.

Editor's Note:

See: Philipp Wackernagel, Das deutsche Kirchenlied. Vol. 1. (Leipzig: Druct und Berlag von B. G. Leubner, 1864), #309-318, pp. 198-202. Pages are at Dreves' Puer natus in Bethlehem (opens in a new window).

An altered version of Schaff's lyrics appeared in O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #90; see A Babe is Born in Bethlehem (opens in a new window).

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