Once in Royal David’s City

This Christmas hymn written by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1848 was originally written to explain this part of the Apostles’ Creed: “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” Each stanza explores part of the contrast between Jesus’ divinity and humanity. The first stanza contrasts the grand idea of “royal David’s city” with the lowliness of a cattle-shed, and the second, the glory of heaven, from where He came, with the poverty of earth to which He came. The hymn ends by reminding us that Christ has ascended once again to glory, where we shall see Him, as He said: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3)1.

Once in royal David’s city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor and mean and lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love,
for that child, so dear and gentle,
is our Lord in heav’n above,
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor, lowly stable
with the oxen standing by
we shall see him, but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high.
Then like stars his children crowned,
all in white, his praise will sound.


2 thoughts on “Once in Royal David’s City

  1. I’m collecting the words of a lot of the hymns you offer. But to my ears the vocal versions are sub-standard, poor, limited voices and too many guitars. They don’t do the hymns justice, and I seldom listen to them for more than ten seconds. You’re perhaps restricted in your choice by copyright issues, but aren’t there any free and inspired choral versions available in the US? I shall stay subscribed and keep hoping, though. Blessings and very best wishes for Christmas. Sara Lewis in Brussels, Belgium


    • Hi there, thanks for your comment and for subscribing! The primary purpose of Hymn of the Day is provide hymn lyrics to inboxes for subscribers to read, pray and meditate on. If I have a song version I like, I will also add it onto the post too.

      As music taste is very subjective, you will not find many choral songs suggested as I do not listen to choral music. You could suggest specific songs through the Suggest a Hymn page, and I will add it to the rotation, regardless if like the version or not (as long as it’s not blasphemous). If however your main interest is the videos that are suggested for each hymn, you will always be disappointed I’m afraid, and this may not be the right blog for you 🙂


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