“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” is a Christmas carol that ‘s over 300 years old. Published in 1700, it “was the only Christmas hymn to gain official approval in the Church of England until Charles Wesley’s hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” was added in a 1782 edition of the New Version.”1
Over the years lyrics have changed and been added, and it has been sung to numerous tunes.2 Because of its British heritage I’ve posted a version sung by the King’s College Choir of Cambridge:
“A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the Christmas Eve service held in King’s College Chapel. The service introduced in 1918 to bring a more imaginative approach to worship. It was first broadcast in 1928 and is now broadcast to millions of people around the world.
“The service includes carols and readings from the Bible. The opening carol is always ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, and there is always a new, specially commissioned carol. It is distinct from Carols from King’s, which is a carol service pre-recorded for BBC television, also broadcast on Christmas Eve.”3
This video is from last year’s Carols from King’s. You can find numerous videos of many carols sung during both services over the years.
Featured Image: Annunciation to the Shepherds: Adam Pynacker, Public Domain.
Image: Supplement to the New Version of Psalms (London: J. Heptinstall, 1700). “While shepherds watched their flocks by night,” at Hymnology Archive.
1Celebrating Holidays, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.”
2Chris Fenner, “While shepherds watched their flocks by night,” for Hymnology Archive, 28 November 2019, rev. 11 December 2019
3King’s College Chapel, “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.”
Copyright ©2021–2022 Iwana Carpenter