As an organist, I find it hard to choose any one Advent or Christmas hymn as a favorite. I have many favorites. One of the more contemporary hymns that unite Advent and Christmas is Where Shepherds Lately Knelt, text by Jaroslav Vajda, sung to the tune Manager Song by Carl Schalk. This song has a connection to Camp Arcadia. Jerry Vajda also wrote the text for By a Lake We Come to Know You, our 75th anniversary hymn which we sing for the Closing Service each week at Camp Arcadia. And Carl Schalk wrote the original tune to that hymn.
The text of this Christmas hymn is so special, and the gentle Manger Song tune fits it perfectly.
1. Where shepherds lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half-belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred;
But there is room and welcome there for me,
2. In that unlikely place I find Him as they said:
Sweet newborn babe, now frail! And in a manger bed:
A still, small voice to cry one day for me.
3. How should I not have known Isaiah would be there,
His prophecies fulfilled: With pounding heart I stare:
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.
4. Can I, will I forget how Love was born, and burned
Its way into my heart—unasked, unforced, unearned,
To die, to live, and not alone for me.
As we sing, we hear a story coming to the manger. By the time we get to the third stanza and realize that Isaiah is there, we understand how profound the Old Testament prophecies which we read during Advent, are. This advent we pray that none would forget this love that was born and lived and died for each of us!
Lutheran Service Book
Author: Jaroslav J. Vajda, b. 1919
Tune: Manger Song
Composer: Carl F. Schalk, b.1929