The next performance was not until 17 December 1857 by the Sing-Akademie zu Berlinunder Eduard Grell. The Christmas Oratorio is a particularly sophisticated example of parody music. The author of the text is unknown, although a likely collaborator was Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander).
The work belongs to a group of three oratorios written towards the end of Bach's career in 1734 and 1735 for major feasts, the others being the Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11) and the Easter Oratorio. All parody earlier compositions, although the Christmas Oratorio is by far the longest and most complex work.