Monday, December 5, 2016

Watchman, Tell Us of the Night

I’ve always been intrigued by the shepherds.  Outcast…unclean…lonely…away…of course our Great God chose them to be the first ones to witness the arrival of His Son.  That’s how the God we love and serve is like:  delightfully unpredictable.  He’s got a knack for doing extraordinary things through ordinary people.  That’s why it should not be surprising that He decided to reveal Himself to the shepherds.  I also see another lesson here, though:  He often reveals Himself to those who are keeping watch. 

I know, Our Mighty God can command the attention of even the most distracted of us with nothing but a passing glance.  But I also know that He rewards those who intentionally focus their eyes on Him.

I don’t know much about being a shepherd.  But I imagine that shepherds out in the field must be quite alert at night to make sure predators and thieves don’t decimate the herds.  I also imagine it is not every night that they see action.  I bet most nights are quiet and uneventful, leaving them with plenty of time and not much to do…other than to watch and perhaps even meditate.  I know if I were a shepherdess in the field, I would do a lot of thinking during the lonely hours of the night.  That would probably be when I would do most of my pondering…while contemplating the vast expanse of the skies, like a black blanket where the most precious of diamonds have spilled over.  So the way I see it, this was one group God did not have to wake up to present the Good News!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2: 8

At any rate, today I’ve found another Advent hymn, with which I am not familiar either.  However, it reminded me of my old friends, the shepherds of that blessed night, so I decided to add it to my collection.  Here’s a link: Watchman tell us of the night (warning, it is not a great quality sound) and the lyrics.  I hope you enjoy it.

1. Watchman, tell us of the night,
    What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, over yon mountain's height,
    See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
    Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes - it brings the day,
    Promised day of Israel.

2. Watchman, tell us of the night;
    Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light,
    Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone
    Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own;
    See, it bursts over all the earth.

3. Watchman, tell us of the night,
    For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight,
    Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease;
    Hie thee to thy quiet home.1
Traveler, lo! the Prince of Peace,
    Lo! the Son of God is come!

Words: Sir John Bowring, Hymns: As a Sequel to Matins, 1825
Music: "Watchman," Lowell Mason, The Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music, 10th edition, 1831

There are lots of words from the Old English in this song, but nonetheless, it is precious.  Its intricate dialogue between the watchman and the traveler seeks to discover the knowledge that the one who has seen what happened possesses.  The traveler inquiries about the events to disperse the rumors and uncover the truth.  The watchman is the key as to what happened that special night when they got to see the King … The New Born Prince of Peace.  To me, the watchman is the shepherd, the outcast…unclean…lonely and distant shepherd whose wandering can finally cease for the Lord has come and the Son of God is finally here!

I pray that in this age of waiting, I can be a watchman.  I pray I can be in that chosen group of watchmen that remains awake when the revelation reappears…the promise for every man.

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