Angels We Have Heard On High

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast 


Luke 2:8-18

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

The Annunciation to the Shepherds – Rembrandt | Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany | December 2021

Gloooooooooooooooooooooooooria in excelsis deo! I love singing that refrain. There are many easily accessible harmonies I can improvise with it. The words are indelibly impressed on my heart and mind. Glory to God in the highest! Yes! This is a praiseworthy moment. God is literally breaking through into our world. The heavens will not hold back. A child is born. Joy is unrestrained in its expression. Angels sing God’s praises. They will do their duty of telling the shepherds of the birth. But they are not to be restrained in their expression of joy and praise.

More than once this Advent/Christmas season I’ve been reminded that there is much more attention given and detail shared regarding the end of Jesus’ earthly life and his resurrection than is given to his birth. Truly the accounts of Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection take up ⅓ of the gospel record. Jesus’ birth occupies less than on tenth.

For reasons known only to God the praise and joy expressed at Jesus’ birth is not echoed at Jesus’ resurrection. Angels are present. They announce Jesus’ resurrection to Peter, John, and Mary. But there is no angel chorus. No “Glory to God in the highest!” Perhaps that is because Jesus’ resurrection – vital to our faith as it is – is only part of the victory that has been won for us. It is truly  a victory. Jesus’ resurrection is essential to our faith. But until the Great Last Day, the fullness of that victory is yet to be revealed.

But as Jesus is born things are in motion that will come to fruition.

I have been to only one professional basketball game, and the beginning of the game was quite a spectacle. Reunion Arena in Dallas was suddenly plunged into darkness. I heard a rumble on the sound system, together with a rhythmic bass riff accompanied by ominous sounding cascading notes in the upper range. Mavman (the Dallas Mavericks mascot) suddenly descended from the highest point in the arena – climbing down a rope dropped from the ceiling. Spotlights swept the crowd and the floor of the court. The game was about to begin!

The outcome of that game, sadly, was not as well assured as the outcome of Jesus’ birth. The Mavericks were giving away tickets to fill their seats. That’s why I was there. But the angels of God know how this will end. It begins. The major salvation event for all people was coming to light. This is the beginning of a great deliverance. It’s only the beginning. But its outcome is assured as the baby is born. Angels announce it. They sing God’s praises: Gloooooooooooooooooooooooooria in excelsis deo! Though most likely not in Latin, the message is clear, Glory to God in the highest. No matter how powerful, mighty, important, or high and honored the place or person, the glory to God on this occasion reaches beyond. Good News of great joy. A Savior is born. Glory to God in the highest – and in the deep places of our hearts as well.

Angels We Have Heard on High

Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains. Refrain

ref 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

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King. Refrain

Text: Public domain

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