31 Days of Song, Day #11

I can't believe Christmas is only two weeks away!  I'm so excited!

I just found this song today, and I actually really like it!  It's called "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks".  From Then Sings My Soul:

* He will feed His flock like a shepherd: He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young. Isaiah 40:11

This popular carol owes its endurance to two men with dark financial woes.  The first, Nahum Tate, was born in Dublin in 1652 to a preacher who was literally named Faithful--Rev. Faithful Teate (original spelling).  After attending Trinity College in Dublin, young Nahum migrated to London to be a writer.  His success was slow in coming, but he dabbled with plays, adapted the prose of others, and eventually was named poet laureate in 1692 and appointed royal historiographer ten years later.  Unfortunately, Nahum was intemperate and careless in handling money, and he lived in perpetual financial distress.  He died in an institution for debtors in 1715.
   His chief claim to fame was his collaboration with Nicholas Brady in compiling  a hymnbook entitled The New Version of the Psalms of David, published in 1696.  It was reissued in 1700 with a supplement in which this carol first appeared.  The words to "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" represent a very literal paraphrase of Luke 2:8-14, making this one of our most biblically accurate Christmas carols.
   The second man instrumental in the song's success was George Frideric Handel, composer of the music to which this carol is sung.  Handel was born in Germany with the inborn talent of a musical genius.  His father pressured the young man to enter law school, but George would not be denied, writing his first composition by age twelve and amazing choirmasters with his artistry.  He eventually moved to London, where he enjoyed great success for a season.  Then his popularity waned, his income dwindled, and he went bankrupt.  It was the remarkable success of Messiah that salvaged Handel's career--and bank account.  Through it all, Handel's powerful personality pressed on.
   How ironic!  These two men never met; they both struggled with poverty, faced bankruptcy, and worried about making ends meet--yet they enriched the world beyond measure, providing millions of people for scores of generations with the gift of song every Advent season.
I know the words are kind of hard to hear in the song, so the lyrics are posted below.

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 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
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!"

I'm so thankful for the freedom that God gives today.  As Isaiah 61:1 says so beautifully: "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners."

* excerpt taken from Then Sings My Soul Special Edition by Robert J. Morgan, pages 6-7

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