Hail the blest morn
See the Great Mediator
Down from the regions of Glory descend!
Shepherds, go worship the Babe in the manger,
Lo, for the a guard the bright angels attend.
Cold on His Cradle the dew-drops are shining
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all.
Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
Shall we not yield Him in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine,
Gems of the mountains and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?
“I guess Christmas is without a doubt the best time in the whole year, all around the world, for all folks who celebrate it, and in our family in Kentucky it must be better than any place else. I suppose every child must feel that way about his own home place and his family and their Christmases together. I can remember looking forward all year round to the happy time in December when all the scattered ones of us would gather in around our fireplace and sparkling tree. Just thinking about it would fairly send me out of my mind with joy and excitement.
“On Old Christmas Eve we’d sit fore the fire and Mom and Dad and Granny’d atell us about the baby Jesus born in a stable on this night, and they’d say that if we’d go out at midnight we’d see the elderberry bush blooming in the fence corner right in the snow, and that if we’d peep in through a chink in our stable and make no racket atall we’d see the cow and the old mule kneeling, paying honor to the little King of Kings. Then maybe Granny’d sing us her Christmas carol, “Brightest and Best,” in the old mountain tune, and we’d all sing some…That used to be our Christmas.”
Jean Ritchie, Singing Family of the Cumberlands
University Press of Kentucky, 1988
Jean Ritchie (b. 1922) is the best known and most respected singer of traditional ballads in the United States. Born in Viper, Kentucky, she comes from a family of musicians who have preserved folk traditions for generations. As to the origin of the carol, Englishman Reginald Heber wrote “Brightest and Best” for the Feast of the Epiphany, and in 1811 published the hymn in the Christian Observer.