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On Christmas Night

Full Text

1 On Christmas night all Christians sing
to hear the news the angels bring.
On Christmas night all Christians sing
to hear the news the angels bring:
news of great joy, news of great mirth,
news of our merciful King’s birth.

2 Then why should we on earth be sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad?
Then why should we on earth be sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad,
when from our sin he set us free,
all for to gain our liberty?

3 When sin departs before his face,
then life and health come in its place.
When sin departs before his face,
then life and health come in its place.
Angels rejoice with us and sing,
all for to see the newborn King.

4 All out of darkness we have light,
which made the angels sing this night.
All out of darkness we have light,
which made the angels sing this night:
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
peace on earth, and goodwill. Amen.”

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

For the narrative this song is reflecting, see Luke 2.
Stanza 3 refers to sin departing “before his face”. See Matthew 1:21.


On Christmas Night

Words of Praise

Come and stand amazed, you people,
see how God is reconciled!
See his plans of love accomplished,
see his gift, this newborn child.
See the Mighty, weak and tender,
see the Word who now is mute.
See the Sovereign without splendor,
see the Fullness destitute;
the Beloved, whom we covet,
in a state of low repute.
See how humankind received him;
see him wrapped in swaddling bands,
who as Lord of all creation
rules the wind by his commands.
See him lying in a manger
without sign of reasoning;
Word of God to flesh surrendered,
he is wisdom’s crown, our King.
See how tender our Defender
at whose birth the angels sing.
O Lord Jesus, God incarnate,
who assumed this humble form,
counsel me and let my wishes
to your perfect will conform.
Light of life, dispel my darkness,
let your frailty strengthen me;
let your meekness give me boldness,
let your burden set me free;
let your sadness give me gladness,
let your death be life for me. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
In Christ, we are forgiven! Thanks be to God!
—based on 1 Timothy 1:15, NRSV
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

How does the holy conception
and birth of Christ benefit you?
He is our mediator,
and, in God’s sight,
he covers with his innocence and perfect holiness
my sinfulness in which I was conceived.
—Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 36
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
People of God, through the coming of Jesus Christ,
whose birth we celebrate,
the Lord has comforted and redeemed us too!
In Christ we receive the salvation of our God.
Glory to God in the highest!
—based on Isaiah 52:9-10; Luke 2:14, NRSV
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

O Immanuel,
O Wisdom from on high,
O Lord of might,
O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
O Key of David,
O Bright and Morning Star,
O King of nations,
We rejoice and are glad
on this bright Christmas morning,
for truly you have come,
full of grace and truth.
Even now, come into our hearts again.
Show us the path of knowledge.
Comfort us in our mourning.
Save us from our sin.
Open wide our way to heaven.
Turn our darkness into light.
End our sad divisions
and be our King of peace,
so that every creature in heaven and on earth
will join in a chorus of praise,
and shout with joy to you, our Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

The following is a guide for extemporaneous prayers. The pattern provides a suggested text
for the opening and closing of each part of the prayer and calls for extemporaneous prayers of
thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.
Incarnate God,
with the angels we sing and glorify your name,
thankful for all that you have given us:
for your presence in the world . . .
for our nation . . .
for our community and its leaders . . .
for the witness of your church celebrating around the world . . .
But today we are especially grateful for the gift of your Son, who gave up his heavenly
home for a manger and a cross so that we might experience redemption, a gift
that neither spoils nor fades.
With the angels we also desire peace on earth, a peace that is broader and deeper
than the end of war. We pray for the restoration of this world, for the growth of
your kingdom, for reconciliation, healing, and renewal. We bring before you our
prayers for
the nations of the world, especially . . .
our nation and those in authority . . .
our community and those who govern it . . .
the church universal, its mission, and those who minister . . .
the local congregation and its ministry, especially . . .
those with particular needs on this holy day . . .
Make your incarnate presence known in each situation, and may we as your servants
be vessels of your peace.
We pray this in the name of the one who became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus
Christ, our Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

On Christmas Night

Tune Information

F Major
Meter refrain 10.9



On Christmas Night

Hymn Story/Background

Luke Wadding published his Smale Garland of Pious and Godly Songs (Ghent, 1684). This carol, included in that collection of eleven songs, became popular and the text was often revised over the years. Ralph Vaughan Williams received a copy (text and tune) in 1904 from one of his choir members, a Mrs. Verrall of Monks’ Gate, near Horsham, Sussex, and prepared the current arrangement. His setting was included in the popular Oxford Book of Carols (1928), still a source for many Lessons and Carols services at Christmas time. 
— Emily Brink

Author Information

Luke Wadding (b. 1628; d. 1691) was born in Ballycogley Castle in Ireland, a still-existing castle built by the Wadding family that dates from the 13th century. They were colonists that prospered after the English invasion of that area, but the family left the castle and lost their lands following the invasion under Cromwell’s rule. He studied in Paris, earned his doctorate, and became bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Ferns, in County Wexford, Ireland, sometime around 1683. 
— Emily Brink

Composer Information

Through his composing, conducting, collecting, editing, and teaching, Ralph Vaughan Williams (b. Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England, October 12, 1872; d. Westminster, London, England, August 26, 1958) became the chief figure in the realm of English music and church music in the first half of the twentieth century. His education included instruction at the Royal College of Music in London and Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as additional studies in Berlin and Paris. During World War I he served in the army medical corps in France. Vaughan Williams taught music at the Royal College of Music (1920-1940), conducted the Bach Choir in London (1920-1927), and directed the Leith Hill Music Festival in Dorking (1905-1953). A major influence in his life was the English folk song. A knowledgeable collector of folk songs, he was also a member of the Folksong Society and a supporter of the English Folk Dance Society. Vaughan Williams wrote various articles and books, including National Music (1935), and composed numerous arrange­ments of folk songs; many of his compositions show the impact of folk rhythms and melodic modes. His original compositions cover nearly all musical genres, from orchestral symphonies and concertos to choral works, from songs to operas, and from chamber music to music for films. Vaughan Williams's church music includes anthems; choral-orchestral works, such as Magnificat (1932), Dona Nobis Pacem (1936), and Hodie (1953); and hymn tune settings for organ. But most important to the history of hymnody, he was music editor of the most influential British hymnal at the beginning of the twentieth century, The English Hymnal (1906), and coeditor (with Martin Shaw) of Songs of Praise (1925, 1931) and the Oxford Book of Carols (1928).
— Bert Polman
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