Speculative Caroling

One of the most beautiful Christmas hymns features an alternate-reality Nativity story.
on Dec 26, 2014 · 1 comment

In 1642, Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Huron nation of Canada, imagined what the Incarnation might have looked like had God sent His Son to the wilderness of Ontario instead of the hills of Bethlehem. The fruit of this speculation is one of the most beautiful entries in this world’s repertoire of Christmas hymns — one which translates exceptionally well into English. As performed above by the Cambridge Singers, the Huron Carol, as it’s now known, inspires awe at the glory and mystery of God putting on flesh, and refreshes stale visions of the Nativity by means of careful cultural contextualization.


Jean de Brébeuf

Behold, an alternate-universe Christmas!

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wandering hunters heard the hymn:
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high …
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

By day, Austin Gunderson is a media production professional; by night a reader and writer of fantasy, and is the former Lorehaven review chief. He resides in Utah with the wife of his youth and two children.
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  1. Matthias M. Hoefler says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it!

    Hadn’t heard of it before. It’ll find its way into my repertoire for next year’s Christmas music offerings for the old timers I play for.

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