The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Carol VIII. The Shepherds of Bethlehem


When Christ Our Saviour Came On Earth

For Christmas

Words: Anonymous.

Music: Evening Hymn

Source: Christmas Carols, or Sacred Songs, Suited to the Festival of our Lord's Nativity (London: John William Parker, 1833), pp. 44-45.



" And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us."óLuke ii. 15.

When Christ our Saviour came on earth, 
And angels hymn'd the heavenly birth, 
To whom were those glad tidings given ? 
Who first beheld the King of heaven?

To shepherds, as they watch'd by night, 
Were told those tidings of delight: 
To shepherds in their wattled fold 
Twas giv'n that glory to behold.

To them was said the joyous word, 
The herald of their new-born Lord ; 
To them was shown the appointed sign, 
The index of the Babe divine.

The angel form, that o'er them shone, 
The light more radiant than the sun, 
They saw : they heard the heavenly hymn 
Peal'd from the quiring cherubim.

Sight, ne'er before, nor since agen, 
Presented to the eyes of men, 
Their Lord in swaddling clothes array'd, 
They saw, and in a manger laid.

They first proclaimed the birth abroad; 
They first their hearts in praise to God 
Pour'd forth for what, so poor and mean, 
Their ears had heard, their eyes had seen.

Why, Lord, were these glad tidings told 
First mid the simple shepherds' fold ? 
Was it to show, that low and high 
Are equal in thy righteous eye ?

That thou wilt never close thy door 
Of mercy to the worldly poor, 
And lov'st thy bounty to impart 
Most freely to the poor in heart ?

Was it to show, that those who wait 
Contented in their humble state, 
And wake, and watch, and labour there, 
Thou mark'st with thy peculiar care ?

Was it to show, how well arrays 
That humble state the garb of praise ; 
How well to spread thy truth abroad, 
To profit men, and serve their God ?

Howe'er it be, since well we know 
From all thy book may learning flow, 
Grant, Lord, the fact our hearts may reach, 
And rules of holy living teach.

Teach us, if high, to vaunt us not 
Presumptuous of our loftier lot, 
Nor fondly deem that worldly wealth 
Is needful to the spirit's health.

Teach us if low, that state to see 
Our course prescrib'd for serving Thee; 
Whilst in that state perform their parts 
Industrious hands, contented hearts.

Teach us, if high or low, to hear 
Attent the truth thine angels bear; 
Where'er the Saviour makes abode, 
To take forthwith the ready road ;

To note each heav'n-appointed sign 
Which leads us to thy Son divine, 
And whence to earth he came, and why 
He left his royal state on high ;

To spread the glorious news, and raise 
To thee the voice of grateful praise ; 
And, from the world's allurements free, 
Like Bethlehem's shepherds, honour Thee !

Sheet Music from Source: Christmas Carols, or Sacred Songs, Suited to the Festival of our Lord's Nativity (London: John William Parker, 1833), pp. 44-45.

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