"Angels We Have Heard on High"

David Bast

READ : Luke 2:1-14

Glory to God in the highest . . . ! (v. 14)

“Angels We Have Heard on High” is a traditional French carol and tune. Once more it has us reliving in song the familiar story of Luke 2, this time from the perspective of the shepherds.

Angels we have heard on high,

sweetly singing o'er the plains

and the mountains in reply,

echoing their joyous strains.

This Christmas favorite is also one of the very few times that Protestants enthusiastically sing in Latin, as we belt out the carol's refrain,

Gloria in excelsis Deo! (Or Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in excelsis Deo!)

That refrain, of course, is the angels' praise song—”Glory to God in the highest!” In singing this we seem to be playing the part of the mountains, “echoing their joyous strains.” Maybe this is what the psalmist meant when he said, “Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes . . .” (Ps. 98:8-9).

The carol's final stanza invites us to join the shepherds in Bethlehem.

Come to Bethlehem and see

him whose birth the angels sing;

come, adore on bended knee

Christ the Lord, the new-born King.

We have even better reason to come and adore than they did. True, the shepherds actually saw and heard the angels. But we know the whole story—not only that he came, but why; not only that he would save, but how.

Audio Link: http://goo.gl/hBhZx0


May the whole creation join together in praise for your coming, Lord Jesus.