Saint-Saëns's Christmas Oratorio (or Oratorio de Noël) was written in 1858 when he was just 23. This piece was originally scored for five Vocal Soloists, Chorus, Harp, String Quartet and Organ; this, the vocal score, contains a piano reduction.
The Christmas Oratorio opens with a Prelude subtitled 'In the style of Sebastian Bach' harkening back to Bach's Christmas Oratorio. This opening prelude sets the scene for the Christmas story: its lilting pastoral quality creates images of the shepherds tending their flocks in the fields. In the remaining movements, the vocal soloists take turns representing different characters such as the narrator of the story or as the angel who announces the birth of the baby Jesus while the chorus represents a multitude of angels singing to the glory of the Lord. The final movement of the piece, which follows the model of old French Christmas songs, is a virtual hymn of praise of all creation in the presence of God.
The English version of the text is by N.H. Dole.