Thomas Pestel (1584-1659) was Chaplain in Ordinary to Charles I, king of England. Shortly before his death in 1659 he had published a book titled Sermons and Devotions Old and New, which included a poem in nine stanzas titled "A Psalm for Christmas Day Morning." In the early 20th century, the editors of the English Hymnal took Pestel's poem, clipped off the first four stanzas, and printed it beginning with the fifth stanza, as follows:
Behold the great Creator makes
himself a house of clay,
a robe of virgin flesh he takes
which he will wear for ay.
Hark, hark, the wise eternal Word
like a weak infant cries!
In form of servant is the Lord,
and God in cradle lies.
This wonder struck the world amazed,
it shook the starry frame;
squadrons of spirits stood and gazed,
then down in troops they came.
Glad shepherds ran to view the sight;
a choir of angels sings,
and eastern sages with delight
adore this King of kings.
Join then, all hearts that are not stone,
and all our voices prove
to celebrate this holy One,
the God of peace and love.
The musical editor of the English Hymnal, Ralph Vaughan Williams, set this lyric to the 15th century English air This endris night.