“Where Shepherds Lately Knelt”

Where shepherds lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half-belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred;
But there is room and welcome there for me,
But there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place I find him as they said:
Sweet newborn Babe, how frail!  And in a manger bed:
A still, small voice to cry one day for me,
A still, small voice to cry one day for me.

How should I not have known Isaiah would be there,
His prophecies fulfilled?  With pounding heart I stare:
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me,
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.

Can I, will I forget how Love was born, and burned
It’s way into my heart—unasked, unforced, unearned,
To die, to live, and not alone for me,
To die, to live, and not alone for me?

— “Where Shepherds Lately Knelt,”
Lutheran Service Book, 369.

HT: Pastoral Meanderings.

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3 thoughts on ““Where Shepherds Lately Knelt”

  1. If my memory is correct, I believe that CW was the first modern Lutheran hymnal to take Vajda’s text and Schalk’s tune, originally published as a choir anthem, and publish it as an (entirely) congregational hymn. It has become a favorite for many Lutherans.

    This is a great example of a text that is not only beautiful in its poetry but also rich in its theology. In the first two lines of the last stanza (really in three words), Vajda refutes Arminianism/decision theology (“unasked”), Calvinism (“unforced”), and Semi-Pelagianism/works righteousness (“unearned”). He tells the Nativity story, connects Jesus’ birth with the Old Testament prophecies, and points forward to the cross and empty tomb. Not a bad standard to aim for in church music!

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