Once in Royal David's City

Full Text

1 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.

2 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 meek and lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.

3 Jesus 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 feels for all our sadness,
and he shares in all our gladness.

4 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.

Source: Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #140

Author: Cecil F. Alexander

Alexander, Cecil Frances, née Humphreys, second daughter of the late Major John Humphreys, Miltown House, co. Tyrone, Ireland, b. 1823, and married in 1850 to the Rt. Rev. W. Alexander, D.D., Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. Mrs. Alexander's hymns and poems number nearly 400. They are mostly for children, and were published in her Verses for Holy Seasons, with Preface by Dr. Hook, 1846; Poems on Subjects in the Old Testament, pt. i. 1854, pt. ii. 1857; Narrative Hymns for Village Schools, 1853; Hymns for Little Children, 1848; Hymns Descriptive and Devotional, 1858; The Legend of the Golden Prayers 1859; Moral Songs, N.B.; The Lord of the Forest and his Vassals, an Allegory, &c.; or contributed to the Lyra Anglicana, the S.P.C.K. Psalms and Hym… Go to person page >

Notes

Scripture References:
st. 1-2 = Luke 2:4-7
st. 4 = Mark 10:14
st. 5 = Rom. 8:34

To help children understand the Apostles' Creed words "who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary," Cecil F. Alexander (b. Redcross, County Wicklow, Ireland, 1818; Londonderry, Ireland, 1895) wrote this text and published it in her Hymns for Little Children (1848). Five of her six stanzas are included; the third stanza is omitted.

A good mingling of the biblical story and Christian theology, the text sets the nativity of Christ into a much larger framework-the history of salvation. Alexander's words enable us to look back and to look forward from this historic event. Stanzas 1 and 2 recall Christ's humble birth. Stanza 3 focuses on Christ's childhood and identity with humanity. Stanzas 4 and 5 look forward to the sharing of Christ's glory with his children.

As a small girl, Cecil Frances Humphries wrote poetry in her school's journal. In 1850 she married Rev. William Alexander, who later became the Anglican primate (chief bishop) of Ireland. She showed her concern for disadvantaged people by traveling many miles each day to visit the sick and the poor, providing food, warm clothes, and medical supplies. She and her sister also founded a school for the deaf. Alexander was strongly influenced by the Oxford Movement and by John Keble's Christian Year. Her first book of poetry, Verses for Seasons, was a "Christian Year" for children. She wrote hymns based on the Apostles' Creed, baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Ten Commandments, and prayer, writing in simple language for children. Her more than four hundred hymn texts were published in Verses from the Holy Scripture ( 1846), Hymns for Little Children (1848), and Hymns Descriptive and Devotional (1858).

Liturgical Use:
Christmas Eve or Christmas Day worship services, especially as a glorious processional; anytime during the church year in conjunction with worship services in which this part of the creed or eschatological themes (st. 5) is preached; church school programs.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
======================

Once in Royal David's city. C. F. Alexander, née Humphreys. [Christmas.] First appeared in her Hymns for Little Children, in 1848, p. 30. It is based on the words of the Creed, "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary," and is in 6 stanzas of 6 lines. It is usually given in a correct form, and ranks as one of the most popular of Mrs. Alexander's hymns for children.

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

Timeline

Media

The Cyber Hymnal #5227
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
  • XML score (XML)
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #346
The United Methodist Hymnal #250
Worship and Rejoice #183

Instances

Instances (43)TextImageAudioScoreFlexscore
Celebrating Grace Hymnal #104Image
Celebration Hymnal #286Image
Chalice Hymnal #165Text
Christian Worship: a Lutheran hymnal #50Text
Christmas Favorites #32
Church Family Worship #646
Church Hymnal, Fifth Edition #177
Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #315Text
Common Praise #123Text
Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New #532
Complete Mission Praise #539
Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary #139Text
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #269Image
Gather (3rd ed.) #455Image
Gather Comprehensive #372Text
Gather Comprehensive, Second Edition #380
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #140TextImageAudioFlexscore
Hymnal 1982: according to the use of the Episcopal Church #102TextImage
Hymns Ancient & Modern, New Standard Edition #46
Hymns for Today's Church (2nd ed.) #67
Hymns Old and New: New Anglican #403
Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #270
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #87Image
Lutheran Service Book #376Text
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #49TextImage
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #346TextImageAudioScore
Rejoice in the Lord #201Text
Revival Hymns and Choruses #148
Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #149
Sing Glory: Hymns, Psalms and Songs for a New Century #359
Sing Joyfully #217TextImage
The Christian Life Hymnal #83
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #175
The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration #155
The New Century Hymnal #145Image
The United Methodist Hymnal #250TextImageAudioScore
The Worshiping Church #161TextImage
Together in Song: Australian Hymn Book II #312
Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #225TextImage
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #62Text
With One Voice #643Text
Worship and Rejoice #183TextImageAudioScore
Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal #88