I was trying to think of some English writing about Christmas that is not Dickens. Then I remembered that I haven't yet posted about the fact that this year is the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible.
The King James Bible was a translation into English of the original Greek texts. There could not have been a better time to commission it. The English language was experiencing its greatest flowering; Shakespeare's The Tempest was first performed in 1611.
The Bible translation was not the work of one man; there was a committee of about fifty scholars. It was not a new translation; it drew heavily on earlier work such as that of Wycliff and Tyndale.
It is the most widely published text in the English language. It has given us a great number of phrases and sayings. Until quite recently, almost every English person would have had some familiarity with it.
And it has the greatest piece of writing about Christmas in English.
Gospel of St Luke, Chapter Two
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.