The Shepherds at Bethlehem

The Shepherds at Bethlehem

Shepherds at Bethlehem.

(The Gospel History, Section 10)

And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign unto you; Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.

And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. And when they saw it they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child. And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them.

The Shepherds at Bethlehem

(The Saviour of the World, Vol I Book I Poem XIII)

Now there were shepherds in the field that night,
To watch their flocks; the stillness seemed to them
Portentous, every star an omen: awed
By the silence, they held solemn talk;
Talk of Messias, and the whispered hope
Afloat among the hill-folk—how one John,
A prophet of the Highest, had been born,
And he should go before Messias; how, here,
In Bethlehem, should Christ come; so spake the seer,
And all men knew that here was David’s city.
“And shall He, also, be a Shepherd King,
Who knows His folk by face, as we our sheep,
And calls each by his name; who shelter finds,
And pasture, for His flock, and leads them forth?
Ah, might we live to see the promised day!
But who are we? Our place is far apart
From any pomp of kings!”

And as they spake,

Behold, a sudden glory filled the night;
An angel stood beside them; said, “Fear not,
Good tidings of great joy I bring to you—
To you and to all people; this day is born
To you in David’s city, Christ the Lord!”
The shepherds held their peace, nor yet could speak
For joy and consternation; so answered them
The seraph, knowing their thought: “and this the sign
Which shall confirm to you these mighty News—
In swaddling clothes, and in a manger laid,
A Babe shall ye find.”—Whereat a multitude
Of the heavenly host now saw they with that one,
And these all sang together, praising God:—
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth
Peace and goodwill to men who bear goodwill!”
And, chanting still that chorus, they went up.

Prostrate upon the ground the shepherds lay,
Trembling with joy and fear: then, “Come,” said they,
“Let us go even now to Bethlehem
And see the thing the Lord God hath made known—
That He should send great News to such as we!”

They came with haste, and found the Infant lying
In a manger, as was told them; and with Him
Mary and Joseph; and worshipping, they fell
Before that mystery—Messias, born
A Babe in this poor place, with none to welcome,—
Save only the Sons of God shouting for joy!

Humble before, humbled they went away;
And told their tale to all who cared to hear;—

“The Christ, in sooth, is come—in such poor state
As might the child of beggar at the gate;
But seraph spake with us, and glory shone,
And multitude of angels joined in song!”

The people marvelled at the shepherds’ tidings;
Some talked and soon forgot, and some remembered;
But Mary kept these sayings in her heart,
Compared with other times an angel came,
And pondered day by day these mysteries.
The shepherds returned—even as the angels went—
Praising their God for all the wondrous things
Had been vouchsafed to them to see and hear.

St. Luke ii. 8-20.