There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” – Luke 2:8 KJV
Today the Christmas season is celebrated with seemingly ubiquitous music, including carols, cantatas, and concerts. Even the secular, non-Christian world knows the words to familiar carols, and through them becomes familiar with the message of Jesus’ birth.
But there was little singing of hymns as we know them in England and the United States from the 16th century until the early 18th century. During this time, churches primarily sang settings of the Psalms. But people began to request revisions that reflected contemporary words that spoke to their experiences and needs.
As a result, in 1696, Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate collaborated on a new edition of hymns, some of which focused on the birth of Jesus. Initially, their revisions met with widespread resistance, but gradually the hymns gained acceptance.
In one of their most popular hymns, Tate and Brady told the story of the visit of the angels to the shepherds. Their message was simple, and the story was told in a memorable way: “While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, the angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around.”
They ended this hymn with the message of praise: “All glory be to God on high, and to the Earth be peace; Good will henceforth from heaven to men begin and never cease!”
Throughout this Christmas season, as you hear familiar carols and hymns, remember the truth in the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus. Do not allow this powerful story to become stale for you and your family. Remember the life-changing, earth-shattering truth, and the timeless message that shook the world that night. Remember that Jesus came to die for the world. For sinners. For you. Remember that His love is real.