Gloria in Excelsis Deo


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.
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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.

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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 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. 

Luke 2:8-18 (NIV)
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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.

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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!

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Gloria!  Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

How Great Thou Art

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

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Clouds dot the cerulean sky,
A gentle breeze whispers,
And flowers nod as I walk
A country path.
Then sings my soul.

photo of buildings near ocean
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Trees bow and rain coils,
Gales roar and city streets
Shiver as I wait
In sheltered awe.
Then sings my soul.

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A newborn nestles in my arms
Making sucking noises
In its slumber,
As arms and legs
Learn to measure open space.
Then sings my soul.

trees in park
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Families gather in black
Murmuring comfort
In somber tones
As they learn to
Measure the empty space.
Then sings my soul.

How Great Thou Art!
How awesome in power!
How glorious your Creation!
How mysterious your ways!
How lavish in Life,
And triumphant over Death!

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My souls sings;
Sometimes sweet and low,
And sometimes keening.
My soul dances;
It reels and skips and sways.
My soul cries and laughs and trills.
But always, it says,
“How Great Thou Art!”

sky space dark galaxy
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This Little Light…

Yesterday, I wrote about reflections– about being a reflection of God’s character in a dark world.  Today just happens to be the 49th anniversary of the first moon landing, so I’d like to revisit yesterday’s theme, but with a slightly different analogy.

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Mirrors, lakes, glass, and more can be used to reflect both light and images.  The moon reflects light from the sun to light our way at night.  God created it to do just that, and I believe that God never wastes an opportunity to teach us lessons in nature.  So I want to look at just some of the ideas that occur to me about how the moon can teach us about reflecting God’s light in our darkened world.

clouds dark moon moonlight
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First, the moon generates no light on its own.  The moon is NOT the sun– it does not and cannot generate light or heat.  On its own, it is lifeless and cold.  But because of where it is, and what it is, it provides light, acts on the oceans to create tides, and helps us chart the weeks, months, and seasons.  The moon doesn’t act independently, but it has purpose and beauty in reflecting the sun and following its prescribed orbit around the earth.  If the moon were smaller, farther from the earth, nearer to the earth, or different in its nature, the effect on the earth and on all life would be devastating.

astrology astronomy black and white crater
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Second, the moon can only reflect the sun’s light when it is in position to do so.  Moonlight is different every night because of its changing position.  We have names for all the many phases– full moon, half-moon, quarter moon, crescent moon, new moon, and so on.  Even more dramatic are the eclipses– when the world comes between the sun and moon, we get a lunar eclipse– the moon is shadowed because the sunlight cannot reach it– the world gets in the way.  And, if the moon comes between the sun and the earth, there is a solar eclipse– the world becomes dark as the moon gets in the way of the sun’s rays.  There is a good lesson here to us.  If we are to reflect God’s light and character to the world, we cannot afford to let the world block out our light source.  Worse, we cannot reflect light to the world when we step in front of our source and block out the Son!

astronomy circle dark eclipse
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Third, the moon can be visited– it can be mapped, studied, comprehended.  We can look directly at the moon, stare at it, look at it through a telescope, and not go blind.  We can send people in rockets to walk on the moon, take samples of its dust and rocks, plant flags on its surface, and even leave trash on its surface.  There is still mystery and fascination to be found on the moon, but it doesn’t have the glory and awe of the sun.

sky space moon astronomy
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Another interesting observation– there is no moon, nor need for it, in Heaven.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth, but there is no mention of a new moon.  There will be no seas (no tides), and no night.  We will no longer be a reflection of God’s character to a darkened world– instead, we will be living in the actual light of His presence.  What an awesome thought!

Obviously, like most analogies, there is no perfect correlation here.  These are just some random thoughts and observations, and I’m no scientist or theologian.  But, today, as we (hopefully) enjoy some time in the sun, and tonight as we reflect on the moon, I pray that we would get a special glimpse of His glory, and that we may use any opportunities that come our way to reflect it.

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Of Rocks and Rills…

I love spending time in nature– walking, riding, or biking through woods and meadows, hills and valleys, along lakes or rivers.  God has created such beauty and majesty in every part of our world!  I grew up surrounded by woods and water– lakes, rivers, old forests and new-growth woods, with lots of farmland and meadows spread out over low rolling hills.  So it is always with wonder that I look upon mountains, deserts, rain forests and jungles, and tropical settings because they are not part of the “normal” landscape for me.  Even so, I never tire of the sites that greet me year-round–the steady breaking waves rolling in off Lake Michigan; the babbling of a small river or stream over field stone as it races down a small hill toward a pond; trees bowing and dancing in the wind just before a storm…

beach coast coastline coconut trees
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Nature is not just beautiful.  It gives us yet another way to experience God’s “nature”– his character and provision.  God is steady like a rock– strong, enduring, a safe refuge.  God is refreshing and life-giving as a river– ready to wash away aches and soothe us.  God is eternal, and his love is as vast and deep as the ocean.  God is mysterious as the forest–giving shade and cover, and concealing treasures, and ancient secrets.  God is as open as a meadow, as pure as an ice shelf, as glorious as a desert sunset.

brown stair between trees
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God uses his glorious creation to illustrate his “nature.”  I pray that we can experience the both aspects of God’s nature today, and praise Him for who He is and how He has revealed Himself all around us.

big wooden cross on green grass field under the white clouds
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