Thursday, 17 December 2020

While Shepherds watched


While shepherds watched their flocks by night has arguably been one of the Christmas Carols that has had many “lyrical adjustments” over the years. Many of us know this song as the one about the Shepherds washing their socks at night J Although it has nothing to do with the dirty socks of the Shepherds, it does have a lot to do with the annunciation of the Angels (Luke 2:8-14).

The song was first seen in a print in 1700, which suggests it was composed a few years before this date. It was written by Nahum Tate (1652 – 1715), an Irish poet and was apparently the first Christmas hymn allowed to be sung in the Anglican church. All songs before then were taken directly from the Psalms of David. This should have given Nahum much prestige, but sadly it didn’t seem to change his fortunes very much – it is thought he died in relative obscurity.

The part of the carol that stands out for me today is the last verse – this is in particular respect to the public holiday “The Day of Reconciliation”, which was celebrated yesterday in South Africa. How amazing would it be if there was truly ‘peace on earth’ and ‘goodwill’ shown to all people?

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around
And glory shone around

“Fear not,” he said,
For mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind,
To you and all mankind.”

“To you in David’s
Town this day
Is born of David’s line
The Saviour who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign
And this shall be the sign.”

“The heavenly Babe
You there shall find
To human view displayed
And meanly wrapped
In swathing bands
And in a manger laid
And in a manger laid.”

Thus spake the seraph,
And forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song
Addressed their joyful song

“All glory be to
God on high
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth
From heaven to men
Begin and never cease
Begin and never cease!”

Living in Grace


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