BANNERSt. Alphonsus Liguori Christmas Hymn I:

Ode on the Birth of Our Saviour Jesus Christ

WHEN Jesus first appeared on earth
A Babe in Bethlehem,
The winter midnight of His birth
Did fair as noontide seem;
Ne'er shone the stars so bright
As on that wondrous night:
Swift to the East the brightest of them all
Darts through the sky, the Magi kings to call.

Awakened by the unwonted light,
The startled songster birds
Broke the lone stillness of the night
With songs like Angels' words;
While chirping in the field,
The grasshoppers revealed
The joy of earth: "Jesus is born!" they cried;
"Our God is born!" the warbling birds replied.

Fresh, as when washed by summer showers,
Now bud the roses sweet;
And thousand, thousand fragrant flowers
The Infant Saviour greet;
While e'en the arid hay
That in the manger lay
Decked out with leaf and bloom the poor abode,
And kissed the infant members of its God.

In fair Engaddi's flowery clime
Now blooms the fragrant vine,
And ripening grapes, ere nature's time,
In purple clusters twine,
Sweet Babe! Divinely fair!
Thou art Love's cluster rare!
Coolness to burning lips Thou dost impart,
And warmth of love Divine to frozen heart.

Now gentle peace reigned far and wide,
In joy and liberty;
The sheep and lion side by side
Were pastured happily;
The kid, with frolic gay,
Near tiger fierce can play,
And ox with savage bear secure from harm,
And lambkin near the wolf without alarm.
Joy, too, awoke at Jesus' birth,
And roamed creation free,
In Heaven, in every tribe of earth,
O'er every land and sea;
And many a sleeper smiled
As when a little child,
And felt his heart rebounding in his breast,
While dreams of gladness mingled with his rest.

The watchful shepherds kept by night
The flocks of Bethlehem.
When lo! an Angel clothed in light
Appeared, and said to them,
"Good shepherds! do not fear,
 Our gladsome tidings hear;
For peace and joy upon the world arise,
And sinful earth becomes a paradise!

"To thee this day in Bethlehem
A Saviour king is born;
The long-expected,-----to redeem
And save a world forlorn.
Then haste, and thou wilt find
The Saviour of mankind.
An infant, swathed, and lying in a stall,
Amongst the poor, the poorest one of all."

The Angel choirs in glittering throng
From Heaven to earth descend,
And in one sweet melodious song
Their countless voices blend.
"Glory to God above!
Born is the King of Love!
Peace be, on earth, to men who have good will.
Let grateful concerts earth and Heaven fill!"

Each shepherd's heart within his breast
Bounded with love inflamed.
And eagerly unto the rest
His ardor thus proclaimed:
"Why longer thus delay?
Come, haste, away, away!
For ah! I languish with desire untold
My Infant God and Saviour to behold!"

The shepherds o'er the hill-top hie,
Like herd of startled deer;
With joy they soon the cave descry,
And to the crib draw near;
They see that Infant sweet,
With Mary at His feet.
And looks of love all beaming from His eyes
Appear like rays of bliss from Paradise.

Astonished, raptured, and enchained
At this great sight they saw,
Long time the shepherds thus remained
 In solemn silent awe:
Then sweet and loving sighs
Deep from their hearts arise,
While mingled tears and words their love confess,
And in a thousand fervent acts express.

Then entering the poor abode,
With knees devoutly bent,
 They humbly to the Infant God
Their simple gifts present;
And Jesus does not scorn
The poor and lowly-born.
But raising up to them His tiny hand,
 He smiles a blessing on this humble band.

Then do the flames of heavenly fire,
Which in their bosoms glow,
 Such tender confidence inspire
As love alone can know.
They venture to embrace
That Child of heavenly grace,
And on His hands and feet-----O happiness!-----
A thousand times their fervent lips they press.

Then in their pipes these joyful swains
Such heavenly music breathed,
And rivalling angelic strains,
With tuneful Mary wreathed
In sweetest harmony
Such soothing lullaby,
That slumber o'er the infant eyelids crept,
And Jesus closed His lovely eyes, and slept.
The lullaby these shepherds blest
To Jesus sung was this;
Which gently, softly, lulled to rest
The Infant God of bliss.
But while I now repeat
This cradle-song so sweet,
Think that with them beside the crib you kneel,
And pray the ardors of their love to feel.

"Gentle slumber, from above,
Hush to sleep thy heavenly King,
Born an Infant for our love!
Hasten, sleep, soft slumbers bring!

"Lovely Jewel of my heart!
Would that I could be the sleep,
Softly, swiftly, to impart
Closing eyes and slumbers deep.

"But, if love of men to gain,
Thus a Babe Thou deign'st to be,
 Love alone can sing the strain,
Which can slumbers bring to Thee!

"Since, then, love has power on Thee,
Lo! my heart and soul are Thine!
Yes! I love Thee, love-----but see!-----
Sleep has closed those eyes Divine.
"Thee, my God, alone I love!
Treasure! Beauty! Love, I love Thee,
Cometh from Heaven above
So Thou couldst die for love of me.  
Then breaking off their loving strain,
 All happy and content,
They hastened to their flocks again,
Rejoicing as they went;
But such a heavenly fire,
 So ardent a desire
Of this dear Infant in their bosoms burns
That to their thoughts He evermore returns.

In Hell alone, where mortal hate,
 Despair, and terror dwell,
And in the hearts as obstinate
As demons loosed from Hell,
The splendors of that night
Awakened strange affright:
Hardened in guilt, they trembled with dismay;
They hate the light which shows to Heaven the way.

Jesus! Thou art a Sun of Love,
Whence beams of mercy dart;
Thy rays enlighten from above,
And warm the sinner's heart.
Though black and hard his soul,
 As changed to earthy coal,
Yet if repentant once he turns to Thee,
Thou show'st still more
Thy loving clemency.

But, sweetest Child, ah! Jesus, say,
Why flow those infant tears?
Yes, 'tis that I may wash away,
My sins of bygone years!
Alas! what have I done?
Unkind, ungrateful one!
I sinned, I sinned, yet still Thou lovedst me:
Would I had died ere I offended Thee!

Oh for a fountain flowing o'er
With tears both night and day,
My sins unnumbered to deplore,
And weep them all away
To bathe my Infant's feet,
And by my sobs entreat
His mercy! Then, oh, grant me once to hear
The word Thou art forgiven; do not fear!
Thrice blest, thrice happy should I be
With this too favored lot!
All else on earth would seem to me
Not worth one care, one thought.
Thou Hope of the distressed,
Hear, Mary, my request!
Cease not to pray for this poor sinful one,
Who asks to love once more thy Blessed Son!

Lines in bold were compiled from the other verses because they were
missing in our version of the text, maintaining theme and context, and meter.