Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.Refrain:
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heav’nly song?
Come to Bethlehem and see
Him Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.
This has always been one of my favorite Christmas carols to sing. I love the movement of the melodic line and the harmonies, especially when singing the angels’ chorus: “Gloria, in excelsis Deo! Gloria, in excelsis Deo!”
(Glory to God in the Highest Heavens!)
Yet, if we think about it, the angels seem almost to be having a joke. There is something ironic about hosts of angels praising the glory of God in His highest Heaven, when they are announcing that He is, at that moment, a wailing, helpless infant, wrapped in rags and borrowing a feeding trough for his bed, miles from the warmth and comfort of a home of any kind, let alone the glory of His rightful throne.
Luke 2:8-18 (NIV)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
And this is how God chose to appear, and chooses to work– confounding the power of the powerful, the wisdom of the wise, and the goodness of the self-righteous. God does not glorify that which is already a spectacle. Instead he glorifies the lowly and unqualified things of the world by coming into them, working through them, and reshaping them for His use.
And so, may we have eyes, ears, and hands to work in the same way–to raise up, encourage, bless, and honor those who cannot yet see the Glory around them, the Glory God offers to share freely. May we be the host of God’s messengers to spread the Glorious news of Christ’s gift of life and salvation. May we be like the shepherds, jubilant in our acceptance of His great news. And may we be, like the babe himself–humble and kind–bringing Glory to the world around us, no matter how dark or unwelcoming it may appear. Remember, God himself is with us!
Gloria! Gloria, in excelsis Deo!