URC Daily Devotion Friday 25th December 2020

Friday 25th December – While Shepherds Watched their Flocks By Night

This carol is a paraphrase of the Gospel account of the angels and the shepherds made by Irish man Nathum Tate.  Many tunes have been used for this – we normally use Winchester New which has an appropriately churchy feel to it.  However, Cranbrook normally gets folk to enjoy the hymn and sing it with some ghusto!

St Luke 2: 15 – 20

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’  So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

While Shepherds Watched
Nathum Tate c1700

You can hear this here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgYzJDxxzN8 for the tune normally used but the far better tune Cranbrook is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZxvfZ9Ga2E

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!”


Wait,  what is that? 
Can you see it? 
Can you hear it? 
Surely it isn’t for us? 

It’s so bright it fills the whole sky, it’s so loud it echoes across the valley.

It’s too glorious for people like us, it must be meant for someone else.

Yet the angels didn’t appear to the great and the good in nearby Jerusalem, barely 6 miles away.

They deliberately sought out people who were among the lowliest in society.

Shepherding wasn’t a career choice for the brightest and best, it didn’t demand skills or brainpower. Whoever heard of a good shepherd?

So here was a group of unimportant shepherds on the hillside above an insignificant town on the edge of the world. Maybe the angels were lost on their way to somewhere else. Their celestial sat-nav had sent them the wrong way.

But there was no mistake, this was the place, this was the time, and these were the people who got the invitation to witness the arrival of a baby born to shepherd many sheep.

Imagine for a moment that Jesus had been born in a palace and that the witnesses were royalty, High Priests and political leaders, how could that baby have grown to become our saviour? 

Jesus was destined to be born in an outbuilding.

It’s easy to be distracted at Christmas by the sparkly, impressive, expensive and seemingly important things. All of the pomp and ceremony.

Let’s not miss the greatest gift, tucked away in a corner and wrapped cheaply.

The stable and the shepherds prove that this baby is for everyone. 

So let there be glory to God on high, 
and to this our earth let there be peace
May this baby bring good will, let life
Begin and never cease


Loving God
Help us to remember how vulnerable you became at Christmas.
You came then as you come now
to a world that is broken and in need of healing.
You came without power, but with love.
Without might, but with hope
Into the darkness you brought light.


Today’s writer

Sam Goodman, Elder, Central URC, Derby



New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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