While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

Peace That Will Never Cease

Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night was written by Nahum Tate, an Irishman who served as the poet laureate of England during the reign of William and Mary. With another Irishman, Nicholas Brady, Tate created a collection of psalms and hymns for churches to use. The carol was part of the collection published in 1700.

The narrative style of the carol’s stanzas has contributed to its popularity down through church history. Tate shaped Luke’s account of the angel’s visit to the shepherds into a compelling metrical story.

What intrigues me is Tate’s insight into the meaning of the angel’s words in Luke 2:14. The angel said, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Tate adds a postscript to that message and states that the peace given to all mankind that night would “never cease.”

What kind of peace never ends? Certainly not the kind we define as the end of conflict or the end of adversity. So what peace were the angels proclaiming? The peace that Jesus’ death and resurrection would provide—reconciliation with God.

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in Eden, human beings have been separated from God’s holy presence by their inability to meet God’s standard of righteousness set down in the Mosaic Law. Jesus’ birth was the beginning of the reconciliation; peace with God was completed when Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross.

Hebrews 10:10 states, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” This is the peace of which the angels sang. This is the peace that will “never cease.” We now have permanent access to God’s presence through Jesus Christ. No wonder the angels were singing, “Glory to God in the highest!”


What three names for Jesus does the angel use in Luke 2:11?  What is he emphasizing about Jesus’ identity by using those names?

Read Romans 5:1-5. What has “peace with God” given us?  Why is Paul rejoicing in verse 3-5?

Philippians 4:7 mentions the “peace of God which transcends all understanding.” How can we experience that peace? Read Isaiah 26:3-4.

To read the lyrics to “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night, go to http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/while_shepherds_watched.htm

Denise K. Loock

NOTE: If you enjoyed this devotion, you might want to purchase one of my devotional collections that harmonize Scripture and song: http://tinyurl.com/ctfxtko and http://tinyurl.com/cnf699n


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