One of my favorite carols is an old English hymn called Once In David’s Royal City. The carol was first published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys’ hymnbook Hymns for little Children. In 1919, the song was used as the processional hymn for the Christmas Eve Service held at the King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.
I love this carol not only because of the beautiful harmony of the tune, but because of the simple but powerful lyrics. The words speak of the birth, the life, and the ministry of Jesus:
Once in royal Davids 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, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour 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 cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.
The carol takes me back to the town of Bethlehem. Today, Bethlehem is more of a city than a town, with about 20,000 residents. But 2000 years ago, this City of David was only a small town. The prophet Micah describes it this way –
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:2-4).”
The video is produced and performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.