My favorite Christmas carol as a child was “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night”. In my mind it told the most spectacular part of the Christmas story, angels appearing in the middle of the night to Shepherds on a hillside.
I was deathly afraid of the dark so the 2nd verse spoke volumes to me.
“Fear not,” said he; for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind.”
I could well image how terrified they must have been to be out in the dark at night and then to be addressed suddenly by an angel.
But fear made way to…“Glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all mankind”. The angel spoke of a Savior and of peace between God and men.
It was written by Naham Tate, an Irishman, who moved to London in his twenties. He was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1692 until his death in 1715. He wrote these lyrics in 1700 (approximately).
The tune is by George F. Handel. (1685 – 1759) Probably taken from an aria he wrote in 1728.
Here is a recording of the most familiar version.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (Hymn Charts with Lyrics, Contemporary) – YouTube
Here is another version that is probably almost as old. The tune is “Winchester Old”.
WINCHESTER OLD WHILE SHEPHERD WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS – YouTube
Here is a new version from 2013 by Craig Courtney that is also lovely.
Atlanta Master Chorale | While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (Courtney) – YouTube
I will finish the list out with one more – “The Yorkshire Version”
While Shepherds Watched – The Yorkshire Version by Stamford Bridge Singers – YouTube
There are many other versions. Sorry if I didn’t mention your favorite.
What was your favorite Christmas carol as a child? Let me know what it was and why.