Timothy Dudley-Smith has composed over 400 hymns. He is one of the great hymn writers of our generation. This carol, I think, is one of his best. It takes us through four images of the Christmas story. These are the songs of the angels, the star to guide the wise men, the tree that was used to crucify our Saviour and the child, Jesus, born in a manger. Each verse punches a powerful message on how these images help us to see our God at work and him redeeming us. The last two lines of each verse remind us what part we have to play in this – our Saviours coming demands a response.
The tune is one that will seem familiar. This is often a good tune since it sticks in the mind ! Each verse uses the tune in a different way as you are taken though the four images – the song, the star, the tree and the child. The first verse is upbeat, almost resembling an Irish jig. We move to more open chords in the second verse to reflect the cosmos. The third verse is a reflective chorale sung a cappella by the choir. This tries to encapsulate the more sombre mood of this verse – Christ bearing our sin on the cross. However, it ends on a positive note as we realise this gives us life ! Finally we return to the upbeat theme of the first verse with an added descant to add the necessary spice for the finale – a child is born, he is Lord of all and we should worship Him !