Try, if you can, to remember the first time you heard the Christmas story—the awe it inspired as you took every word to heart, every image, every movement of the narrative, printing it to memory, the highness of the language it was clothed in, how the words seemed to sparkle like the season itself. “And she brought forth her first begotten son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Or “And there were in the same region shepherds abiding in the field and watching their flock by night.” Or Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel upon his announcement.
My soul magnifieth the Lord.
And my spirit rejoiceth in God my savior.
For he hath looked on the poor degree of his handmaiden.
Behold now from henceforth shall all generations call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is his name.
And where would the Christmas story be without “And it came to pass . . . ?”
These beloved passages, and passages like them, gave Christmas a sound of its own. Even the carols we sing, year after year, have this same voice—Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, Away In A Manger, We Three Kings, Silent Night, Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel, and many others. Though the sound is long frosted with age, Christmas doesn’t exactly seem like Christmas without it.
Contrary to what you may suspect, the passages above, as familiar as they are, were not taken from the King James Bible (1611), but were introduced into the English language many years earlier by an Englishman named William Tyndale. To understand Tyndale’s contribution to the language and the sonority of Christmas, a little backstory may help.Read More