SWEET LITTLE JESUS BOY                                                        written in 1932

The Story

Most people think of this song as a Negro spiritual from the south in the mid-1800s. The lyrics would certainly make one think of America at the time of the Civil War… and I’ve most often heard this song sung as a spiritual. But, this song was actually written by Robert MacGimsey (1898-1979) in 1932.

On Christmas Eve 1932, Robert McGimsey attended a midnight church service in New York City and then headed back to his one-room apartment. As he walked the final blocks, he passed the open doors of private clubs where people were shouting and swearing and singing. Others were so drunk they had passed out on the sidewalk.

            What a strange way to celebrate the birth of the most perfect Person who ever lived on this earth, McGimsey thought. We seem to have missed the whole significance of His life.

That night McGimsey wrote his thoughts on the back of an envelope. These words, which were written like the spirituals he had loved growing up in the southern United States, flowed out of his heart.

The song offers an apology to the Christ-child for not recognizing Him when He came to this earth. But, every year gives us an opportunity to look again at Jesus’ birth with new eyes of understanding and acceptance.

Will we recognize and honor Him as our Lord and King this Christmas?

The Song

Read this Christmas Hymn, and – today – imagine what you would say to Jesus about our world today if you had the chance.

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 don’t know who You is.

You done told us how, we is a tryin’!
Master, You done show’d us how, even when You was dyin’.
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.


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