|In the Biblical account and every dramatization I've ever|
seen, the sheep remain remarkably calm throughout
the whole "angels in the sky" thing. Makes me wonder if
they'd met the angels before. "Oh, yeah, Gabriel.
He likes these dramatic announcements. Gives him
a reason to wear his fancy angel robes."
Image source: A Berg on freeimages.com.
By: We don't know. The most widespread English translation is by James Chadwick.
Written in: We don't know that, either, except that it was in Languedoc, France, sometime before 1862. (There seem to be a great many things about Christmas carols that we don't know, which I suppose is appropriate for a holiday that was appropriated from a pagan feast in an unlikely season for Jesus to have been born, and which is presided over by a jolly and chubby version of a 4th century saint.)
I have thoughts: I love, love, love this song, not the least of which because it's great for altos to sing. We have our own melisma (I'm delighted there's a word for that!) in the chorus, which alternates with the sopranaos' more well known melismas. Also, I just love the tune in general. There are some Christmas tunes (see also "O Little Town of Bethlehem" or "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear") that seem haunting, more evocative of the long road that Mary and Joseph traveled and more foreshadowing of the lonely road ahead for Jesus. And this is one of those for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Verse: In the excellent film The Trouble with Angels, Mary Clancy is stuck at the convent over Christmas break and she sneaks into Christmas Eve Mass to watch the sisters. Reverend Mother sees her, of course, because Reverend Mother sees everything, but leaves her alone to watch instead of sending her away. This is the verse they're singing (if I recall correctly) during that scene. It's the third verse. (Incidentally, The Trouble with Angels is on my very short list of movies that I prefer to the books they're based on.)
Come to Bethlehem and seeWatch:
Him Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.