Twelve Songs of Christmas
Song #1: Angels We Have Heard on High
Glory to God in the Highest!
Each year, many churches around the world sing the words "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," which means "Glory to God in the Highest!" This phrase comes from the book of Luke 2:8-20:
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
The shepherds were privy to the coming king! The shepherds were told by the angel of the Lord that the Messiah was born, and they would find him in a manger. The Messiah, the anointed one, the one who would bring salvation to God's people, was here!
What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?
What is this news that's making you sing Glory to God in the Highest?
This question is answered in the very next verse. Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing. The baby is born! The Messiah, the Savior, is here!
The shepherds are privy to the coming King, and knowing that God has brought the coming Messiah to the world causes those who see and experience to join in the angels song: "Gloria in Excelsis Deo! Glory to God in the Highest!" The true king of the world is born! The kingdom of God is at hand!
And they couldn't keep it in. The passage ends with the declaration that "the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them."
"Angels We Have Heard on High" focuses first on the perspective of the angels singing, and then the shepherds' joy, and ends with a call for Mary and Joseph to join in the song.
See Him in a manger laid
Jesus Lord of heaven and earth;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
With us sing our Savior’s birth.
The song begins with the angels. It grows with the shepherds. This song continues to grow as more discover the wonder that has occurred in the world. The Christ, the Messiah, has come, and the appropriate response is to join in the heavenly song: Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
May this song continue to grow this Christmas season as we celebrate what we have seen and experienced: the Messiah has come into the world! God's kingdom is at hand!