“And Every Stone Shall Cry”


Dear Readers,

In our Anglican Church, we sing Advent hymns, all during the Advent Season, the season of reflection, contemplation, longing, waiting, watching.

Only on Christmas Eve do we begin to sing Christmas hymns and we continue to do so, until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.

One of those Christmas Eve hymns that we sing is known, variously, as:

“A Christmas Hymn” or

“And Every Stone Shall Cry” or

“A Stable Lamp Is Lighted”

This hymn, on Page 104 of The Hymnal, 1982, Oxford Press, is one of the best illustrations of this theme:  “the Cross casts a shadow over the Incarnation.” 

Click here to read an excellent introduction to that somber theme:

The  poet, Richard Wilbur, wrote the words to that hymn.  He is quite possibly the greatest living poet of our time and,  in 2012, he was 91 years old.


Richard Wilbur, born 1921, is an American poet and literary translator.  

He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987.  He twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry:  1957 and 1989.


“All good theology begins and ends with doxology” and “[Good] hymns are [good] theology set to music.”  

This hymn,  A Christmas Hymn, is one of the finest examples of solid theology and doxology.

Listen to a choral recording of the hymn:

Listening Lab.

Scroll to find the entry, “Stable Lamp Is Lighted, A”  by Richard Wilbur.  [The tune is  Andujar, by David Hurd, born 1950.]

“A Christmas Hymn.”

The tune is by Michael Larkin.


A brief biography:  Richard Wilbur [Wikipedia].

A longer, excellent biography, by another esteemed living American poet:   Richard Wilbur Biography by Dana Gioia.


Click here to learn more, subscribe,  and to search the Archives of  Mars Hill Audio Journal and to listen to an interview with Ken Myers [Producer] and Richard Wilbur.

Listen to the melliflous voice of Richard Wilbur:

Click here and scroll down to Selection #67:  Richard Wilbur interview clip

Click here and scroll down to Selection #68:  Richard Wilbur reads “A Christmas Hymn”

Some Questions to Ponder:

Jeffrey Johnson, in “Harbors of Heaven” says about this hymn:  “I like the paradox in it, the hard-working biblical metaphors that carry meaning across the seasons and across the course of life.”  

  • With this quote in mind, study the poem, the paradoxes, and the metaphors.  
  • What are the “seasons” and the “course of life,” to which Johnson refers?   
  • Can you think of an alternate title to the hymn?  
  • Within which Liturgical Church Year Season should we rightly sing this song?
  • How well has Wilbur conveyed the “Grand Narrative of Redemption,” within this poem?
  • Which “two worlds” are reconciled?
  • How does this poem enlarge your vision of the meaning of the Season of Advent and Christmastide?
  • What does this poem mean to us, as we live between the First and Second Advent?
  • How effectively has Wilbur conveyed this theme:  “The Cross casts a shadow over the Incarnation?”

Coram Deo,


This choral CD includes the selection, “A Christmas Hymn:”


A Christmas Hymn

Words:  Richard Wilbur [born 1921]

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, “Master, rebuke the disciples.”

And he answered and said unto them, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”



A stable-lamp is lighted

Whose glow shall wake the sky;

The stars shall bend their voices,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

And straw like gold shall shine;

A barn shall harbor heaven,

A stall become a shrine.

This child through David’s city

Shall ride in triumph by;

The palm shall strew its branches,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

Though heavy, dull and dumb,

And lie within the roadway

To pave his kingdom come.

Yet he shall be forsaken,

And yielded up to die;

The sky shall groan and darken,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

For stony hearts of men:

God’s blood upon the spearhead,

God’s love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,

The low is lifted high;

The stars shall bend their voices,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

In praises of the Child

By whose descent among us

The worlds are reconciled.



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Filed under Hymns, theology and doxology

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