Today’s carol comes with a story. I would hazard a guess that most of you have not heard this Christmas carol, written by a man named John Byrom in 1745. It is burned into my memory because of its association with a childhood memory. At my boarding school in Zambia, it was traditional to play this carol as a sort of reveille on the last morning of the term ending in December.
All the boys who could play a brass instrument would assemble in the middle of the playground and wake us all up by playing this song. It was indeed the happiest of morns for us because it was the morning of the day that we got to go home for the Christmas holiday! Those who were wide awake with anticipation anyway were allowed to rise early to join the trumpeters on the playground and sing the words.
Christians, Awake, Salute the Happy Morn
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 of the earth;
This day hath God fulfilled His promised Word;
This day is born a Savior, Christ the Lord.”
He spoke; and straightaway 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 th’enlightened shepherds ran
To see the wonder God had wrought for man
And found, with Joseph and the blessèd maid,
Her Son, the Savior, in a manger laid;
Then to their flocks, still praising God, return,
And their glad hearts with holy rapture burn.
Like Mary let us ponder in our mind
God’s wondrous love in saving lost mankind!
Trace we the Babe, who hath retrieved our loss,
From His poor manger to His bitter cross,
Tread in His steps, assisted by His grace,
Till man’s first heav’nly state again takes place.
Then may we hope, th’angelic hosts 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, incessantly we sing
Eternal praise to Heav’n’s almighty King.