HOTW: Why This Jubilee?
Posted by Hal in Uncategorized

Yesterday’s stanza was the voice of shepherds who heard the angels. Today’s verse is the question of those who only heard the shepherds:

Adoration of the Shepherds, Matthias Stomer, 1635-40, NC Museum of Art


Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

In the first verse, the shepherds listened to the joyous strains of the angels’ song, echoing from the hills all around. Now they’ve caught that spirit, and the person they encounter on the road witnesses a shepherd jubilee, as they sing their own joyous strain. Were they imitating the music they heard from the angels? To the listener, it seems to be a heavenly song. 

To be perfectly accurate, the Bible doesn’t say the shepherds sang on the way.  When they heard the good news of the Messiah’s birth, they went to Bethlehem “with haste,” and when they’d seen the Child, “they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen”  (Luke 2:16, 20).  However, there are many events in the Bible where Jewish believers broke out in spontaneous singing in times of great joy.  Is it a stretch of the imagination to think that these shepherds might have been overcome with happiness, too?