Who composed ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, and what are the lyrics to the Christmas carol?

18 December 2019, 17:30 | Updated: 19 December 2019, 08:31

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

It’s the guaranteed barnstormer with which all Christmas carol services should end – but what are the lyrics to ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, and who composed the hymn?

‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ is the carol to end all Christmas concerts. Its great melody – whose melody has been attributed to a number of composers, including Handel and Gluck – is generally attributed to John Francis Wade.

First printed in 1751, the text was originally written in Latin as ‘Adeste Fideles’, a title you’ll still sometimes see printed on Christmas albums.

But the English translation, written by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley in 1841, is the most commonly used version.

Today, you might recognise it as the penultimate hymn sung at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge (the final is usually ‘Hark! The Herald’).

Read more: What are the lyrics to ‘Away in a Manger’, and where does the carol come from? >

Kings College Choir Rehearse 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols'
Kings College Choir Rehearse 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols'. Picture: Getty

What are the lyrics about?

Wade’s hymn is a simple carol that tells the story of baby Jesus. Its joyous lyrics (‘Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!’) invite us to join the angels in celebrating the Christ child’s birth.

At most carol services, you’ll hear ‘O Come’ sung in six verses – or even seven, if you include that one after the glorious descant, that always leaves everyone a bit confused and deflated, rather like the feeling of having already unwrapped all your presents and stuffed yourself with turkey by 2pm on Christmas Day.

Read more: The 30 greatest Christmas carols of all time >

The final seventh verse does, however, include one of the greatest chords in all Christmas music: a half diminished seventh, which you’ll hear on ‘word of the father’:

Word of the Father chord
Word of the Father chord. Picture: Carols for Choirs

*shivers*

What are the lyrics to ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’?

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of Angels
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

God of God, Light of Light
Lo, He abhors not the Virgin's womb
Very God
Begotten, not created
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God
All glory in the highest
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning
Jesus, to Thee be glory given
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!