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One of the books in my library is titled “...if such holy song...” by Stanley L. Osborne, published in April, 1976, in Canada by John Deyell Company. It is an erudite work which brings together historical and musical information regarding all the hymns published in the 1971 Hymn Book of the Anglican Church and United Church in Canada. I share this because I will be using Osborne’s book as a resource this week for the One Moment Please spots.

There is a passage in Luke’s Gospel which describes the shepherds of Bethlehem on the first Christmas night. These verses are the basis for Nahum Tate’s Christmas carol, “While shepherds watched their flocks”. Published in 1700 the carol celebrates its 320th anniversary this Christmas even though Tate was considered by his peers to have only modest poetic ability. He died in 1715 hounded by his creditors.

The longevity of the carol can be attributed to Tate’s faithfulness in paraphrasing Luke’s account of the Saviour’s birth, and to the tune Winchester Old published by Thomas Este in 1592. A great host of people all around the world have worshipped God singing in many languages, “While shepherds watched their flocks by night all seated on the ground, the angel of the Lord came down and glory shone around.”

Bible Reading: Luke 2:8-14