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Hymns of Advent - Shepherd praises


WORLD Radio - Hymns of Advent - Shepherd praises

Two songs about the angels’ announcement of Jesus’ birth

Fresco in the Shepherds' Fields Church, Bethlehem, Israel ZvonimirAtleti/iStock image

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday December 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

God’s promise to redeem the world goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. But he made the announcement of his fulfilled promise to a most unusual audience.

EICHER: This week’s advent music features two different songs about that one glorious event.

And just a reminder that we’ve created a Spotify Playlist again this year with all our selections. We’ve put the link in today’s transcript at wng.org/podcasts.

Here’s WORLD correspondent Bonnie Pritchett.

BONNIE PRITCHETT, CORRESPONDENT: The people God chooses to speak to and through is fascinating. Often-maligned prophets. A small-town, teenage girl. And a group of men whose job kept them segregated from, well, decent folks.

The hymn, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night, is a faithful rendering of Luke 2 and the angels’ proclamation that God’s promised Messiah was born. The Choir of Norwich sings this traditional arrangement by Sir David Willcocks.

CHOIR: While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, the angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around. "Fear not," said he for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind "glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all mankind…"

The hymn’s author, Nahum Tate, had an impressive resume, including his appointment as England’s Poet Laureate in 1692. But his work as a poet and playwright brought no financial success. He died in a debtors’ refuge in 1715.

Arguably, his only enduring work is the New Version of the Psalms. He which he co-wrote the collection of metrical Psalms with Nicholas Brady in 1696. While Shepherds Watched the Their Flocks by Night is part of that collection.

Indie singer and songwriter Jilian Linklater gives the hymn a chorus in her 2015 album.

JILIAN LINKATER: Oh, hallelujah! I lift my hands up to praise you this Christmas. Oh, thank you Jesus. O, cuz what other king would come as a baby to save me. O glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace. Goodwill hence forth from heaven to men begin and never cease. You begin and never cease.

Angels We Have Heard on High is another telling of the shepherds’ story. The French carol dates from the 1700s but its author is unknown. In 1862, James Chadwick published the English translation.


Christmas motifs often depict an angel playing an ancient trumpet to herald the good news of Jesus’s birth. This version of Angels We Have Heard on High by Chiz Rider, with his modern trumpet, is from his 2003 album A Big Band Christmas.

From the Big Band sound of last century to the modern tones of acapella choruses, people around the world have used their varying languages, instruments, and rhythms to sing the same praises.


The 6-man acapella group called Just 6, from Johannesburg, South Africa, performs on their 2020 album called uKhisimusi. That’s “Christmas” in Zulu.

VOICES: Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the plains. And the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains, singing “Gloria! In Excelsis Deo…”

From shepherds to Brits to Frenchmen to South Africans, the angels’ invitation remains the same—Come adore him, Christ the Lord.

I’m Bonnie Pritchett.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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