Two things about this here thingie:
First, it’s a little amazing to me how in the realm of congregational singing, we can just plow through a song, ripping along at a breakneck speed, mashing through the words like a freight train flattening a penny on the tracks. (Never did that, wouldn’t ever do it, so there.) Yet when you take the time to read the ponderous lyrics therein, that you just flew through because the organist had a couple too many coffees right before the service, (Or comes from the school of “If we play it too slow, the congregation drags it down further” playing…) well, you find some truly beautiful thoughts to settle down with. That’s the case with Once in Royal David’s City – get past the older style language and the times you’ve swamped through it at church, and you find some wonderful thoughts for Advent.
And second, this is one of the very very very very v-e-r-y rare cases where I would advocate and accept (yea, even encourage) dropping a verse. Specifically verse 3 – I get where she was going with this, but feels more like “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” Maybe drop it? Maybe not?
Calbert, you’re a dufus? Definitely.
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, and mean, and lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.
And thro’ all his wondrous childhood
he would honor and obey,
love and watch the lowly maiden
in whose gentle arms he lay:
Christian children all must be
mild, obedient, good as he.
And our eyes at last shall see him,
thro’ his own redeeming love;
for that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heav’n above:
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing by,
we shall see him, but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned
all in white shall wait around.
– Cecil Frances Alexander