Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 11

"The Nativity at Night" by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, about 1490

Sweet Little Jesus Boy
Words and Music by Robert MacGimsey (1898–1979), 1932
and performed by the incomparable Jessye Norman

Sweet little Jesus Boy
They made You be born in a manger
Sweet little Holy child
Didn't know who You was.

Didn't know You'd come to save us Lord
To take our sins away.
Our eyes was blind;
We couldn't see
We didn't know who You was.

Long time ago You was born
Born in a manger low,
Sweet little Jesus Boy.

The world treat You mean Lord,
Treat me mean too.
But that's how things is down here,
we didn't know t'was You.

You done showed us how,
we is trying.
Master, You done showed us how,
even when you's dying.

Just seem like we can't do right,
look how we treated You.
But please, Sir, forgive us Lord;
We didn't know 'twas You.

Sweet little Jesus Boy
Born long time ago,
Sweet little Holy child
And we didn't know who You was.

Robert MacGimsey wrote this carol after walking past crowded speak-easies in New York City on Christmas Eve, 1932. Intended as an art song, it became one of many quasi-spirituals.

MacGimsey explained to Robin White in 1966, "This is not so much a song as just a meaning. You have to imagine an aging Negro standing off in the middle of a field just giving his heart to Jesus in the stillness."

"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not."
John 1:10-11

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