This carol was written by John Byrom for Christmas 1749. It was set to music by his friend John Wainwright a few days later. The tune and words are a joyful match. I have always loved this song since I found it referenced in Charles Williams’ (C.S. Lewis’s friend) Christian horror/fantasy novel, The Greater Trumps, in which he makes stunning and revelatory use of the line “Rise to adore the mystery of love.”

Christians, awake, salute the happy morn,
Whereon the Savior of the world was born;
Rise to adore the mystery of love,
Which hosts of angels chanted from above;
With them the joyful tidings first begun
Of God incarnate and the Virgin’s Son.

Then to the watchful shepherds it was told,
Who heard th’angelic herald’s voice: “Behold,
I bring good tidings of a Savior’s birth
To you and all the nations on the earth:
This day hath God fulfilled his promised word,
This day is born a Savior, Christ the Lord.”

He spake, and straightway the celestial choir
In hymns of joy, unknown before, conspire;
The praises of redeeming love they sang,
And heav’n’s whole orb with alleluias rang;
God’s highest glory was their anthem still,
Peace on the earth, and unto men good will.

To Bethl’hem straight the happy shepherds ran,
To see the wonder God had wrought for man;
And found, with Joseph and the bless-ed maid,
Her Son, the Savior in a manger laid;
Amazed, the wondrous story they proclaim,
Th’earliest heralds of the Savior’s name.

Let us, like these good shepherds, then employ
Our grateful voices to proclaim the joy;
Trace we the Babe, who hath retrieved our lass,
From his poor manger to his bitter cross;
Treading his steps, assisted by his grace,
Till man’s first heav’nly state again takes place.

Then may we hope, th’angelic thrones among,
To sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song;
He that was born upon this joyful day
Around us all his glory shall display;
Saved by his love, incessant we shall sing
Eternal praise to heav’n’s Almighty King.

(Incidentally, my favorite Charles Williams book is War in Heaven, a fantastic rendition of a modern battle over the Holy Grail.)

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