A Tyndale Christmas, 1526
WE OWE THE LANGUAGE OF CHRISTMAS—its lovely old voice, its deep reds and greens, its highness, its grand step, its pine and candlelight that haunt the memory with a bittersweetness—to William Tyndale.
Below is the Christmas Story [abridged] from the Gospel of Luke. My pronunciation is very different than they might have heard it in 1526, but the words remain flush and effervescent even as they were first broadcast and gratefully received by the English public so many many years ago. It is how Tyndale wrote it down, how he heard it. But, as in GODSPEED, the original spelling charms it with something as primitive and forgotten as it is familiar to us (as only Christmas can do).
Listen for phrases like, "And it chanced in thoose days," or "It fortuned whyll." The King James translators used Tyndale's well-known phrase "And it came to pass," to call attention to any change of scenery, and stuck with that phrase. Where would the Christmas Story be, as we know it, without "And it came to pass . . . "? William Tyndale, slavish editor and reviser that he was, used different versions of the same phrase in an effort not to be repetitive. I love that. It's so him.
You will hear archaisms, words that did not survive the five centuries, words like axed instead of ask, or unpossible instead of impossible. And the lovely "Loo, the angell of ye (the) Lorde stood harde by..."
I hope you can appreciate the treasure Tyndale bequeathed us. Experience the Christmas Story as the first generation of English believers heard it, how it sparkled in their imagination. My suggestion is to listen without reading along, as most of them would have. You have the option. Have a Merry Tyndale Christmas. That is,
"Glory to God an hye and peace on erth: and vnto men reioycynge."
AND IN THE 6TH MONTH the angell Gabriel was sent from god vnto a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin spoused to a man whose name was Ioseph of the housse of David and the virgins name was Mary. And the angell went in vnto her and sayde: Hayle full of grace the Lorde is with thee: blessed art thou among women. When she sawe him she was abasshed at his sayinge: and cast in her mynde what maner of salutacion it should be. And the angell sayde vnto her: feare not Mary: for thou hast founde grace with god. Loo: thou shalt conceave in thy wombe and shalt beare a sonne and shalt call his name Iesus. He shalbe greate and shall be called the sonne of the highest. And ye lorde God shall give vnto him the seat of his father David and he shall reign over ye housse of Iacob forever and of his kyngdome shalbe none ende.
Then sayd Mary vnto ye angell: How shall this be seeinge I knowe not a man? And the angell answered and sayd vnto her: The holy ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the highest shall over shaddow thee. Therfore also that holy thinge which shalbe borne shalbe called the sonne of god. And beholde thy cosen Elizabeth she hath also conceaved a sonne in her age. And this is hyr sixth moneth though she be called barren: for with god can nothing be vnpossible. And Mary sayd: behold the handmaiden of the lorde, be it vnto me even as thou hast sayde. And the angell departed from her.
And it chanced in thoose dayes: that ther went out a comaundment from Augustus the Emperour that all the worlde shuld be taxed. And this taxynge was the first, and executed when Syrenius was leftenaut in Syria. And every man went vnto his awne citie to be taxed. And Ioseph also ascended from Galile oute of a cite called Nazareth into Iurie: vnto the cite of David which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David to be taxed with Mary his spoused wyfe which was with chylde.
And it fortuned whyll they were there her tyme was come that she should be delyvered. And she brought forth her fyrst begotten sonne and wrapped him in swadlynge cloothes and layed him in a manger because ther was no roume for them within in the ynne.
And ther were in the same region shepherdes abydinge in the felde and watching their flocke by nyght. And loo: the angell of ye lorde stode harde by the and the brightnes of ye lorde shone rounde aboute them and they were soare afrayed. But the angell sayd vnto them: Be not afrayed. For beholde I bringe you tydinges of greate ioye that shal come to all the people: for vnto you is borne this daye in the cite of David a saveoure which is Christ the lorde. And take this for a signe: ye shall fynde ye chylde swadled and layed in a manger.
And streight waye there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly soldiers laudynge God and sayinge: Glory to God an hye and peace on the erth: and vnto men reioysynge. And it fortuned as soon as the angels were gone awaye from them in to heaven the shepherdes sayd one to another: let vs go even vnto Bethleem and se this thynge that is hapened which the Lorde hath shewed vnto vs.
And they cam with haste and founde Mary and Ioseph and the babe layde in a mager. And when they had sene it they publisshed a brode the sayinge which was tolde them of that chylde. And all that hearde it wondred at those thinges which were tolde the of the shepherdes. But Mary kept all thoose sayinges and pondered them in hyr hert. And the shepherdes retourned praysinge and laudinge God for all that they had herde and sene evyn as it was told vnto them.
When Iesus was borne at Bethleem in Iury in the tyme of Herode the kynge, beholde there came wyse me from the eest to Ierusalem saynge: Where is he yt is borne kynge of ye Iues? We have sene his starre in ye eest and are come to worship him. When Herode ye kynge had herde thys he was troubled and all Ierusalem with hym and he gathered all ye chefe Prestes and Scribes of the people and axed of them where Christ shulde be borne. And they sayde vnto hym: at Bethlee in Iury. For thus it is written by the Prophet. And thou Bethleem in the londe of Iury art not the leest concernynge the Princes of Iuda. For out of the shall come the captayne that shall govern my people Israhel. Then Herod prevely called the wyse men and dyligetly enquyred of them ye tyme of the starre that appered and sent the to Bethleem saynge: Goo and searche dyligetly for ye chylde. And when ye have founde hym bringe me worde yt I maye come and worshippe hym also.
When they had heard the kynge they departed: and lo the starre which they sawe in ye eeste went before them tyll it came and stode over the place where the chylde was. When they sawe the starre they were marvelously glad: and went into the house and found the chylde with Mary hys mother and kneled doune and worshipped hym and opened their treasures and offred vnto hym gyftes gold frackynsence and myrre. And after they were warned of God in a dreame that they shuld not go ageyne to Herod they retourned into their awne countre another waye.
And when ye eyght daye was come yt the chylde shuld be circucised his name was called Iesus which was named of the angell before he was conceaved in the wombe. And when the tyme of their purificacio (after the lawe of Moyses) was come they brought him to Hierusalem to present hym to ye Lorde (as yt is written in the lawe of the Lorde: every man that fyrst openeth the matrix shalbe called holy to the Lorde) and to offer (as it ys sayde in the lawe of the Lorde) a payre of turtle doves or two yonge pigions.
And beholde ther was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. And the same man was iuste and feared God and longed for the consolacion of Israel and the holy goost was in him. And an answer was geven him of the holy goost that he shulde not se deethe before he had sene the lordes Christ. And he came by inspiracion into the temple. And when the father and mother brought in the chylde Iesus to do for him after the custome of the lawe then toke he him vp in his armes and sayde.
Lorde Now lettest thou thy seruaut departe in peace accordinge to thy promes. For myne eyes have sene ye saveour sent fro ye Wich thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the gentyls and the glory of thy people Israel. And his father and mother mervelled at those thinges which were spoke of him. And Simeon blessed them and sayde vnto Mary his mother: beholde this chyld shalbe the fall and resurrection of many in Israel and a signe which shalbe spoke agaynste. And morover the swearde shall pearce thy soule that the thoughtes of many hertes maye be opened.