The hymn’s title notwithstanding, this setting is not geared to children. For aren’t we really all “little ones” in God’s sight? Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:3, “Unless you . . . become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Who among us would not experience childlike wonder as we marvel at the savior of the world resting peacefully as a newborn baby? Who would not rush to the child’s bedside with songs of joy springing from our lips? Who would not pray to be enveloped in God’s grace and, when the time comes, to go to our heavenly home with our hymns of praise joining the angels’ eternal song?
The music strives to underscore the affect of each stanza. There is a deeply contemplative moment for the lower part in stanza 2, when time seems to stand still at the moment of the Christ child’s birth. With the widening of the block chords in stanza 3 we may imagine Jesus’ arms opening in a loving embrace, in response to our prayer. Hints of the carol “Angels, We Have Heard on High” turn our mind’s ear toward those soaring celestial songs of praise that never end. The dotted eight-sixteenth patterns introduced in stanza 2, which can be played crisply, lend a youthful eagerness to the setting.