Scripture Verse

There were…shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8–11


William Jackson (1730–1803)

Words: Jo­seph Will­iams, Christ­mas Min­strel­sy (Lon­don & Man­ches­ter, Eng­land: No­vel­lo & Brem­ner, 1864), num­ber 12.

Music: Ban­ham Will­iam Jack­son (1730–1803) (🔊 pdf nwc).

If you know where to get a good pho­to of Will­iams (head & shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els),


O’er Judah’s plains amidst the night,
A more than mortal silence there,
The starry hosts in squadrons bright,
Glow in the firmament of air,
While shepherds watch their sleeping fold,
Beneath that fretted arch of gold.

When lo! a stream of glo­ri­ous light,
Bursts in appalling splendor there,
And showed to each astonished sight
An angel swift, and bright, and fair,
An agent in the Gos­pel plan,
Dispatched from Heav’n to mortal man.

With radiance ineffable,
The herald angel stands confessed,
And thence in liquid sweetness fall
The accents of the heav’nly guest;
Yet terrors now the shepherds seize,
But words of comfort them appease.

“Fear not! to you and all mankind
Glad tidings of great joy I bring!
In David’s city ye shall find
A new born Sav­ior, Christ, the King,
Whose sway from pole to pole extends,
And mercy with His justice blends.

A manger is His humble bed,
And while the virgin mother keeps
Her vigils round that holy head,
E’en there the world’s Re­deem­er sleeps,
Enshrined for us in human clay,

To usher in the Gos­pel day.

The angel spake—his retinue
Confirm the mission from above;
And loud and sweet the anthem grew
Of triumph and redeeming love!
O what a theme for Heav’n and earth,
The great Re­deem­er’s mortal birth!

Who, who but they, whose favored eyes
Were blest with this apocalypse,
Could speak angelic harmonies
With golden harps and heav’nly lips?
Come, Holy Ghost, and tune my heart,
To sing a dying sinner’s part.

As at creation’s birth they sang,
So now, they jubilant exult;
Their voices then with praises rang,
In glo­ry now to God result;
And thus the lofty prelude ran,
Glory to God, good will to man.

Unveiled appear the glittering throng,
While hallelujahs fill the sky;
Salvation is their joyful song;
All hail the Day-spring from on high;
And truth and mercy met, inspire
The strains of the celestial choir.

As slowly now recede from earth
The raptured visitants from Hea­ven,
And die the songs of Je­su’s birth,
Which the angelic host had given,
The shepherds go in faith to see
The God made man for you and me.

Angel Appearing Before the Shepherds
Thomas Buchanan Read, 1870