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Ancient Words: Angels We Have Heard on High

December 18, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

"Angels We Have Heard on High" is a Christmas carol to the hymn tune "Gloria" from a traditional French song of unknown origin called Les Anges dans nos campagnes, with paraphrased English lyrics by James Chadwick (1800's). The song's subject is the birth of Jesus Christ as narrated in the Gospel of Luke, specifically the scene in which shepherds outside Bethlehem encounter a multitude of Angels singing and praising the newborn Messiah:

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?

Refrain:

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see

Him Whose birth the angels sing

Come, adore on bended knee,

Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Refrain:

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

See Him in a manger laid,

Whom the choirs of angels praise;

Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,

While our hearts in love we raise.

Refrain:

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them,

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luk 2:8-20 KJV-BRG)

Did the Angels sing? Luke said they were "saying" and some take this to mean they spoke but did not sing. However, Luke also says the were "Praising"! Praise means: Halal (Haw-Lal') (Strongs #1984), which means: -– to be clear (...of sound...);--- to shine, to make a show-– to boast; to be clamourously-– to rave, to celebrate, commend– to sing praise, renowned!! Praise means to sing!! Yes, the angels did sing, they did shine, they did laud, they did celebrate, they did put on a show! Hebrews records at the beginning chapter: For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let ALL the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Heb 1:5-8 KJV-BRG)

Christmas night was a mighty, glorious, proclamation in song about God's only begotten Son! The babe in a manger was King, Shepherd and Savior! Thankfully our songs of old attempt to reflect on this wonderful, spectacular, event on Christmas Day which ushers in to lost man, the plan for eternal redemption and life with the Son and the Angels forever! Merry Christmas!!

Scott and Jane Johnson minister with East Faulkner Church of Christ and BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to [email protected]

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