This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. (I have a lot of favorites.) It’s a song that we hear all the time, and everyone knows it, but how often do we really stop and appreciate a song like this?
Written in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the song tells a story of unlikely protagonists “telling” each other a piece of important news: first the night wind to the little lamb, the little lamb to the shepherd boy, the shepherd boy to the mighty king, and finally, the king to the people everywhere.
Perhaps my favorite part of the song is the second to last line of the refrain. It occurs 4 times throughout the song, each time using different lyrics,“…with a tail as big as a kite,” “…with a voice as big as the sea,” ect. (The first time it occurs in the video I posted is at 0:30 – 0:34 if you’re having trouble finding it.) That last chord in that progression has a subliminally powerful affect on the song, in my opinion. I don’t know what it is about that part. Every time I hear it, I get chills. I just find it amazingly beautiful and mysterious.
Strong imagery is used throughout the song, “a star dancing in the night,” “a song high above the trees.” The song also uses some clever wordplay: the third verse suggests what we can bring to “the child” and the fourth verse flips it around, stating what the child will give to us.
On a final note, I find the king’s order in the fourth verse interesting. Regardless of what religion you are, or even if you’re Atheist, if everyone everywhere prayed for peace (Atheists can pretend to pray or something), we really would have peace. There can’t be fighting if everyone is too busy praying.
So do you hear what I hear?