Tag Archives: birth

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

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!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind.
“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
A Savior, 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,
All 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 on high,
Who thus addressed their song,
Who thus addressed their song:

“All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from Heaven to men
Begin and never cease,
Begin and never cease!”

Words by Nahum Tate, 1700
Music by George F. Handel, 1812

 


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:8 – 14


 

 

There is always something nice about ballads as opposed to other song.  Other songs may flow and say different ideas, but the cohesion is not always there.  A ballad on the other hand tells a full story in verse or song from beginning to end.  When you have heard a ballad you have heard the story and know what it was all about.  What is more, when it is set to music it becomes something that is easier to remember.  The words, tied to the music help us to hold the information in our brains.  So as I said, I love all songs styles, but there is something special about a ballad. And such is the case with Nahum Tate’s “While Shepherds Watched Their Flock By Night.”

In six simple verses we are presented the story found in Luke 2:8 – 14 of the Angel’s pronouncement to the shepherds of the birth of Jesus. An event that sums up the entire message and significance of the birth.  So Tate begins his ballad by writing, “While shepherds watched their flocks by night, All seated on the ground, The angel of the Lord came down, And glory shone around,” which paraphrase verse 8 – 9 which read, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.”

He continues on in he second stanza where he writes, “‘Fear not!’ said he, for mighty dread Had seized their troubled mind. ‘Glad tidings of great joy I bring To you and all mankind'” Here he picks at the end of verse 9 where the first stanza ended and continues on through verse 10 which reads, “and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

Tate continues his journey through the passage as he writes in the third stanza, “To you, in David’s town, this day Is born of David’s line, A Savior, who is Christ the Lord, And this shall be the sign,” Here he paraphrases the words of verses 11 – 12 which read, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you.”

There is no question of the Biblical solidity of the Tate’s Christmas ballad as he continues his paraphrase by writing, “The heavenly Babe you there shall find, To human view displayed, All meanly wrapped in swathing bands, And in a manger laid.” Here he retells the the remainder of verse 12 which reads, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

In the fifth stanza Tate writes, “Thus spake the seraph and forthwith Appeared a shining throng of angels praising God on high, Who thus addressed their song.” He he paraphrases verse 13 which reads, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying.”

Finally, in the last stanza Tate writes, “All glory be to God on high, And to the Earth be peace; Good will henceforth from Heaven to men, Begin and never cease.” Tate has gone through the entire passage and finishes with the summary of verse 14 which reads, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Yes there is something nice about a ballad, a song that simply tells a story.  In this case, the story that God had come to earth, the Messiah had been born.  Unfortunately, it is so easy to find ourselves singing the words without thinking about them.  Next time you sing “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night” listen to what you are saying and realize that you are proclaiming the birth of the Savior of the World.

 

 

Read more about “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.”

 

Silent Night, Holy Night

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Words by Josef Mohr, ca 1817
Music by Franz Gruber, 1820

 


Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
Ephesians 1:7

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:29 – 33


 

I don’t know if your cupboard is like ours, but the dishes we have are used regularly. Some of the dishes may have a few chips, but you know that comes from regular us. Now we do have some special dishes. You know what I am talking about, the “fine china.” Those dishes that only come out for extremely special occasions, whatever those may be. This is not really that unusual. Whether it is dishes, clothes, or anything people often have the everyday items and then those that are set apart for something special. This is the definition of the New Testament Greek word “hagios” which we translate in English as holy.

Now while this word has become a commonly used word in the everyday language, it true meaning is often missed. But in the case of the Christmas hymn, “Silent Night, Holy Night” its true meaning shines through. Holy – To be set apart by or for God.

Josef Mohr begins by setting the tone of a quite and peaceful evening with the words “Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright.” With this as the background he begins to paint for us a picture. He writes, “Round yon virgin mother and Child. Holy Infant, so tender and mild.” A reminder that Jesus was the fulfillment of a prophecy given by Isaiah in Chapter 7, verse 14 where he writes, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

The first verse ends with the words, “sleep in heavenly peace.” Now while this at first glance may seem to be a reference to the Christ child sleeping. However, when we look closer it in light of Psalm 4:8 which reads, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” it seems rather to refer to the city and the peace that has descended on upon the world with Christ presence.

The hymn continues by recounting the events of Luke 2:8 – 14 which reads, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”

He is the Messiah, the Lord. It is this theme that Mohr continues with when he writes, “Son of God, love’s pure light.” He is the Messiah, the Lord and He is the light and “in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

The light shines forth and Mohr uses the imagery to transition to a new idea. For the lawn comes with the dawn, and he writes, “Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace.” Jesus came to extend the grace of God to all people. This is why Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” This is why Jesus came, and his birth is but the beginning, the “dawn of redeeming grace.” From the moment he was born, he was there for this purpose. From the moment he was born he was the Son of God (Luke 1:32) So the Mohr wrote, “Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,”

This night was indeed set apart for special time in all history. It was truly a Holy night, for on this night God came to earth to redeem the world. For this reason, those who come to know the peace that can be found in Jesus alone join together with the proclamation, “Christ the Savior is born!”

 

 

Read more about “Silent Night.”

Come And Worship

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Shepherds, in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant light:
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Though an Infant now we view Him,
He shall fill His Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to Him;
Every knee shall then bow down:
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising
To th’eternal Three in One.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Words by James Montgomery, 1816
Music by Henry T. Smart, 1867

 

 


The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Genesis 22:15 – 18

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.
Haggai 2:6 – 7

God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
Psalm 47:8

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left
Matthew 25:31 – 33

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9 – 11


 

 

Most of us are very familiar with our little world, but far to often we can not see beyond our world. We fail to think about people in the next house over, let alone the other side of the world.  We simply see others as different and figure we share very little with them.

But as Christians, we begin to realize that our world is not so small.  That as we travel around the world we will find those with whom we share the most important thing.  We are brothers and sisters, fellow members of God’s family.  A family made of those called from around the world.  This theme is found in the Christmas hymn, “Angels From the Realms of Glory.”

The hymn begins by  discussing the ever familiar story of the angels proclaiming the birth of Christ.  We of course know that they appeared to the shepherd to declare the news of Christ birth as found in Luke 2.  But James Montgomery presents us with an interesting thought.  He writes, “Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth.” Montgomery presents us with a vivid image of the fact that the birth of the Messiah was not just for  Israel.  He was born for “all the earth” as a fulfillment of Genesis 22:18 where God told Abraham, “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed”

As we continue through the hymn, we find more that we know. Just as the shepherds are a familiar part of the Christmas story, so are the Magi, whom the hymn refers to as Sages. The Magi came, not from Israel, but from a far land to the east. They came to worship the newborn king, following the star they had seen. So the hymn continues, “Seek the great Desire of nations; Ye have seen His natal star.” Yes, Israel had anxiously awaited the coming messiah, but the gift of peace with God that He would bring “is desired by all nations” as found in Haggai 2:7.

Montgomery continues this theme when he writes, “He shall fill His Father’s throne, Gather all the nations to Him; Every knee shall then bow down.” Jesus, the King, will sit on His Father’s throne over all the nations. (Psalm 47:8) This is the vision that Jesus Himself presents to us in Matthew 25:31 – 32 were we read, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him.” Jesus is the King of the nations, and one day all people will bow before Him.  (Philippians 2:9 – 11)

Yes, Jesus is a gift that God gave to the whole world.  (John 3:16) A gift that would lead to salvation and forgiveness.  A gift that would bring peace between God and man.  When we accept this gift given that first Christmas, we can then with “All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son.”

 

 

Read more about “Angels From The Realms of Glory.”