Keith Getty on the Christmas Hymn ‘Once in Royal David’s City’

Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers whose compositions are sung the world over. For more information on Getty Music and the Sing! initiative, visit www.gettymusic.com.


“Once in Royal David’s City” is one of my favorite carols. It’s the one that makes me think of home, of Ireland, the most. It was written in the 19th century by Irish poet Cecil Francis Alexander, wife of William Alexander, a bishop in the Church of Ireland.

While many of Ireland’s poets and playwrights promoted anything but Christianity, there is a wonderful legacy of Irish hymn writers, like Cecil Francis, who taught profound biblical truths through their poems, songs and hymns. Cecil Frances is one of my song-writing heroes!

She was deeply troubled by the shallowness of the songs the children were singing in the Sunday schools. she believed if they continued to sing songs without any scriptural truth or depth, their faith would not last them into adulthood.

Cecil Francis took the Apostles’ Creed and used its central theological truths to form the basis of a number of her hymns — so that children had the opportunity to hear, memorize and absorb every basic Christian doctrine.

“All Things Bright and Beautiful,” perhaps her best-known hymn, takes the first two lines of the Apostles’ Creed – “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” — and creates a wonderfully evocative and memorable song which has taught children for generations about a loving God who created the whole world.

Then, in the hymn “There is a Green Hill Far Away,” Francis expounds on the saving work of Jesus on the cross: Outside a city wall / Where our dear Lord was crucified / Who died to save us all.

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Source: Baptist Press