The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Child Is Born In Bethlehem

For Christmas and Epiphany.

Words and Music: "Puer natus in Bethlehem," A 14th Century Latin Hymn
Translated from the German, "Ein Kind geboren zu Bethlehem, zu Bethlehem."

See: Puer natus in Bethlehem - from Pić Cantiones, with notes and links to translations.

Source: Dr. Henry Harbaugh, "Our Christmas Story," in The Guardian, Vol. XVII, December, 1866, No. 12. (Philadelphia: S. R. Fisher & Co., 1866), pp. 370-371.

A Child is born in Bethlehem,
        In Bethlehem ;
There's joy through all Jerusalem ;
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

Here it lieth in the manger,
        In the manger ;
Wicked thrones are now in danger;
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

The ox and ass with reverent stare,
        With reverent stare,
Start back—the Holy Child is there !
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

From Orient Wisemen grave and old,
        Men grave and old,
Present Him incense, myrrh and gold,
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

His Mother is the Virgin pure,
        The Virgin pure ;
Pious, humble, meek and poor,
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

The Serpent could not poison Him,
        Not poison Him.
He took our nature without sin ;
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

Like us He is in flesh and breath.
        In flesh and breath ;
But not like us in sin and death ;
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

Pure as He is He makes us be,
        He makes us be,
That we His Father's face may see ;
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

Now for these blessed Christmas days.
        These blessed Christmas days,
We give Him everlasting praise :
        Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

Editor's Note:

This carol occurred in a story titled "Our Christmas Story" with the subtitle "Ein Kind geboren zu Bethlehem, zu Bethlehem." The author was Dr. Henry Harbaugh, D.D., who was also the editor of the periodical, The Guardian, published for the Reformed Church of the United States.

The carol was introduced with:

Well, as I just said, I want to take you into this family on Christmas eve, 1748. It is just that peculiarly quiet and pleasant hour, when day has nearly gone and night has not yet arrived. The family are all sitting in the little kitchen around the small fire, and the door into the side room is shut, because that contains the Christmas tree, which the children have not yet seen. After they shall have sung the Christmas Hymn, which their mother has taught them for this occasion, the tree will be lit up, and no doubt they will let us go in also and see. Listen how they sing their hymn :

After the carol was printed, the story continued.

This beautiful Christmas Hymn their mother had taught them from the new Reformed Hymn Book, that had been published a few years be fore, in 1746, in Marburg, and was then used in the Reformed Churches. "Where did you get that hymn, papa?" asked Maggie, always inquisitive.

I got the very same book that contains this hymn, some years ago, from a good old lady, whose parents had brought it from Germany. I will show it to you some time. It is beautifully bound, with gilt clasps on the corners, a gilt star in the centre, gilt hinges, that work flexibly across the back, and a gilt clasp to close it with. It is very fine yet, but it sounds funny to call it the new hymn book now. But I would not exchange it for any new one. Besides seven hundred hymns, it contains also all the Psalms, set to music, the Heidelberg Catechism in full, together with an abridgment of it, the Gospels and Epistles for every Sunday in the year, with their appropriate collects, prayers for every morning and evening in the week, as well as for communion days, and many other prayers for special occasions, with still other things, too many to mention. But we must keep to our story.

As a final note, the reference to this carol was from Dr. John Julian, The Dictionary of Hymnology (1892, 1907), p. 940-941:

The translations from the German are
(1) "A Child is born in Bethlehem, There's joy in all Jerusalem." By Dr. H. Harbaugh in the German Reformed Guardian, Dec. 1866, p. 310.

There were several problems with this reference. First, the title of the carol should have been: "A Child is born in Bethlehem, There's joy through all Jerusalem." The second problem was that the name of the publication was not "The German Reformed Guardian," but was, instead, "The Guardian." Finally, the carol was on pp. 370-1, not page 310. These kinds of problems are very rare in Dr. Julian's fine work, but they do point up to the researcher the need to be flexible in searching for their targets.

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