Tag Archives: manger

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.”

 

Away In A Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.

Words for verses 1 & 2 were written anonymously, Verse 3 by John T. McFarland (19th Century)
Music: Two common tunes, 1st by James R. Murray, 1887; 2nd by William J. Kirkpatrick, 1895

 


and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:7

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Luke 24:50 – 53

The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121:5 – 8

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Galatians 3:26

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18


 

Sometimes the simplest things are really the best. You know, when you strip aware all the glitz and glamor, when all the unnecessary extras are removed, you are left with what really matters.

Hymns are no exception. Some hymns are powerful with grand scores that draw you in. Some have profound teachings in their deep theological truths. But sometimes, the simpler the music and message, the more moving and profound the song. This is the case with the dearly loved hymn, “Away In A Manger.”

“Away in A Manger” is often thought of as a children’s hymn, taught to them from a young age. But this hymn with it gentle lullaby tune (no matter which of the two tunes you prefer) leads us to sit calmly and listen to the words, no matter our age.

In the first verse we sing, “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.” It is a poetic restating of Luke 2:7 where we read, “. . . She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

In the second verse, the poetic picture continues to be draw of the infant Jesus. As a result, we have a picture drawn within our minds that we can not help but be moved by. But to often we think of Jesus at Christmas and picture only the infant child. We need to remember that this child born that first Christmas is the same Jesus who “. . . was taken up into heaven,” (Luke 24:51)

So the hymn continues, “I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.” The request is that the Jesus who ascended into Heaven, watch over and protect. We are drawn to the words of Psalm 121:7 where we read “The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life.”

Finally, in the third verse, introduced by John McFarland, we read, “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.” It is a simple prayer of commitment, reflecting the prayer of a new believer, expressed in the simple words of a young child. It is committing ones life to Christ and trusting that he will never leave. (Hebrews 13:5)

McFarland then writes, “Bless all the dear children, in Thy tender care.” All the dear children? Our first thought is that this is a children’s hymn, so he is speaking to the children. But when we stop to look more closely we are reminded in Galatians 3:26 that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” In this light we are reminded that it is those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, who are the dear children in His care.

McFarland concludes with the words, “And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.” It is this same Jesus who guides and directs us. It is through him that we “. . . are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

This may be a “children’s hymn”, but we are the children for whom the hymn is written. It is a simple message, set to a simple tune, but in it we find profound truths and comfort. The truth that a child born into this world through humble circumstance, is the Savior of mankind who ascended back into heaven. The truth that He will watch over those who trust in him, and that he will never leave. The truth that we are children of God, and that He transforms us into His likeness.

So we join in the prayer, “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me, I pray; Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there”

 

James R. Murray Melody

 

William J. Kirkpatrick Melody (Cradle Song)

 

Read more about “Away In A Manger.”