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Word Made Flesh

Word Made Flesh

I wrote this carol in 2001. It is dedicated to the memory of my parents, Douglas and Mary Smith.

The title of the carol, Word Made Flesh, alludes to John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” In the body of the carol the phrase Word Made Flesh does not appear directly but is paraphrased as “God speaks, and man is born.” The carol regards the circumstances of Christ’s birth not as unique, but as samples of God’s continuing grace “from land to land, from age to age”.

I cannot claim originality in the sentence “God speaks, and man is born.” Teaching in the Sunday school in Wick Old Parish Church in December 1985, I asked my class to write a paragraph and headline about the birth of Jesus from the perspective of a local journalist in first‐century Palestine. One boy, Iain Busby, wrote a lovely paragraph and gave it the headline “God speaks, and man is born”. I asked him how he arrived at that headline, and he explained that it was his take on the phrase The Word was made flesh. Iain was 10 years old.

A couple of other lines in the carol may call for explanation. The lines “Why are they giv’n God’s message splendid? What have they done to earn such grace?” are ironic: God’s grace is not earned, but given freely. The line “Whom do they seek? God’s son? God’s creature?” contemplates the statement in the Nicene Creed that Christ is the Son of God “begotten, not created”.

This performance is taken from the CD Hearts and Hands and Voices recorded in 2002 by the choir of Edinburgh Methodist Mission under Graham Morrison (extreme left in photograph). Graham was our musical director for 37 years until his tragic death in 2007 at the age of 57. The track is reproduced here by kind permission of Annette Morrison (front row, farthest left). The two solo lines in Verse 4 are sung by soprano Lynne Baillie (front row, centre). I am at the piano.

Edinburgh Methodist Mission Choir, October 2002. Photograph: Alan Hogg
  1. Deep in the past, Judaea’s sages
    Spoke of the man who was to be.
    Can he put right the wrongs of ages?
    Will he heal wounds and set men free?
    From land to land, from age to age
    God whispers: prophets hear.

  2. High in the hills, uncouth, unfriended,
    Shepherds meet angels, face to face.
    Why are they giv’n God’s message splendid?
    What have they done to earn such grace?
    From land to land, from age to age
    God beckons: poor men come.

  3. Low in the east, some heav’nly feature
    Catches the eye of learnèd men.
    Whom do they seek? God’s son? God’s creature?
    How did they glimpse the where and when?
    From land to land, from age to age
    God shines, and wise men see.

  4. Close to her breast, an unwed mother
    Treasures her newborn’s primal breath.
    When did she sense his coming greatness?
    How will she bear his shameful death?
    From land to land, from age to age
    God speaks, and man is born –
    From land to land, from age to age,
    Through rich and poor, naïve and sage
    God speaks, and man is born –
    God speaks, and man is born.

The musical score is openly licensed via CC BY‐NC‐ND 4.0. Broadly that means you are welcome, free of charge, to download, print and perform the score, and to share it unadapted (as pdf, or as a paper copy), for non‐commercial purposes.