Today’s reading tells the story of Jesus being presented to Simeon, the faithful follower of God who had waited in expectation of the “consolation of Israel” for all of his life and could now be “dismissed in peace”.
In keeping with this theme of “consolation” – a favourite of mine at this blog! – today’s poem is a translation of an old hymn with an interesting history. Originally the Latin hymn “Puer Natus in Bethlehem”, it got a new life in the nineteenth century thanks to another favourite of mine, the mutton-chopped pastor and poet N.F.S. Grundtvig, who translated it to make the popular Danish Christmas song, “Et barn er født i Bethlehem” (“A baby is born in Bethlehem”). Today I’m adding another layer to that translation history, with my translation of the first six verses of Grundtvig’s hymn. You can also listen to a demo recording of the song set to my own tune – not an amazing recording, sorry, but it should give you an idea of how to sing it. I’ve also repeated the first verse at the end, this time in Danish, to show how the meter works in each language. May you rejoice in the consolation of not just Israel but all the world this Christmas.
A Baby’s Born in Bethlehem
A baby’s born in Bethlehem,
So rejoice, Jerusalem.
A lowly virgin, hidden, poor,
Delivers heaven’s Son, the Lord.
In a crib they laid him down,
The angels sang a joyful sound.
And from the east, wise men sacrificed
Gold, frankincense and myrrh refined.
And now are all our trials gone,
For on this day our saviour’s born.
So God’s people, now restored, can praise
In heaven’s eternal Christmas day.