Once in Royal David’s City was a poem written in the 1840’s by Cecil Frances Alexander, who also wrote the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful. She must have been quite a lady, judging by her hymns.
This is the kind of song that delights a child, yet hits a rich theological note. Again we sing of the Lord of all, who deigned to become the most vulnerable of creatures – a human baby. This song tells us the whole story of Jesus Christ: his humble birth; his loving obedience to the Father, shown in his perfect fulfillment of the law; his willingness to share in the limitations and needs woven into our humanity; his gift of redemption and eternal life through sacrificial death; his resurrection; and his glorious ascension to the heavenly throne. And if we are his children, we will follow in his footsteps – through the tears and the laughter – all the way to glory. I want to be one of those children, like stars surrounding his throne, dressed all in white! Don’t you? How wonderful that it is his righteousness that will clothe us in that manner.
Make sure to read the entire poem below, as the version I’ve linked doesn’t have all of the original verses.
Scriptures to consider:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25
Original poem by Cecil Frances Alexander (1848); music by Henry John Gauntlett (1849)
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 through 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.
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 feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.
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.
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;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.