Sweetly Singing Angels??

Recent years have bought us many new and wonderful Christmas songs, but one of my most favorite carols has always been the old standard “Angels We Have Heard on High.” I can clearly remember standing in the church congregation when I was young, belting out the chorus as the pipe organ shook the walls with the familiar chorus…..

♪ ♫ ♪ Glor-or-or-or-or-ia, In Excelsis Deo! ♫ ♪ ♫

I don’t know if it was because part of the refrain is in Latin that made me feel more holy or something, but I used to try to imagine what it would have been like to fly over the peaceful hills of Judea and join in with that first angel choir singing the praises of the new born King.

That is until recently…

Don’t get me wrong, I still have warm feelings about the song, but I wonder if maybe some of those Christmas favorites have left us with an inaccurate picture of what the angelic announcement to those Bethlehem shepherds actually looked like.

In scripture, the angels primary assignment is to compose the body of the vast army of God described as the “host of heaven.” But because of changes in our language, the word “host” can be misunderstood and maybe bring to mind images of Martha Stewart rather than what the original text means. The definition for this word in the Greek refers to an army, band of soldiers, or military unit.  In that light, the ‘heavenly host’ in Luke 2:13 takes on a completely different feel than we get from the average Christmas carol or holiday illustration.

With this in mind, it’s likely that at the birth of Christ, the skies weren’t filled with a gentle, harp-playing celestial choir. Instead, the night was lit up by the presence of the mighty, powerful, fearsome warriors of the Most High God!

And what of their announcement? As the first angel concluded his message to the shepherds, the battalions burst forth with their own shouts of praise. But what if their words were more of a bold proclamation than a melody? (After all, the text doesn’t actually say they were singing, only praising God.)

And what if their battle armor told a story that mortal language could not express? Weary from millenniums of fighting the forces of darkness, perhaps in jubilation, they showed up to deliver to those shepherds (and us) the “good news” that the birth of the Christ-child meant that the enmity between God and man was finally over.

“Peace on earth,” they exclaimed!

What a declaration!  The rift and animosity that sin caused so long ago in Garden would soon be repaired through the sacrifice of the life of the perfect child who lay nearby in a humble manger.

No wonder the angels rejoiced! The miracle of Christmas that began with Christ’s birth would pave the way for restoration between God and His beloved people and to bring about ultimate “peace,” “good will” and “rest” (Luke 2:14) for all those who believe.

As you sing your Christmas favorites, I encourage you to rethink what the angels may have truly been celebrating – and what we need to celebrate as well. In that spirit, I’d appreciate your indulgence as I try to set a new tone to this season’s contemplation by borrowing the title of John Lennon’s familiar Christmas song, and giving it a fresh and spiritual spin –

“Happy Christmas,” friends. “The War is Over!”

7 thoughts on “Sweetly Singing Angels??

  1. Amy Bovaird says:

    Karen,
    Ha ha! Funny how you said that the Latin song made you feel more holy or something. That is kind of true sometimes! It think it’s unconscious but may be true! I never thought about the background of this song. I’m so glad you pointed out what you learned! Thank you! I loved your ending! Beautiful image!
    Amy

    Reply
  2. Mel Thompson says:

    I’ve found it interesting in Scripture, God sings over us but no where can I find where ANGELS actually are singing. Can they sing? Maybe, but the Word doesn’t say they do. So, when a Christmas song is playing on my CD’s and I’m singing along, I change the words from “singing”, to “saying” [the “shepherds” probably didn’t sing in the manger either]. PRAISING GOD in harmony–“one accord”–is key in our responses. The melody is but the carrier of the theme.

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    1. Karen says:

      I found the same thing. Give a whole different feel to the Christmas scene to think of the angels this way. Thanks for the comment. and Merry Christmas all!

      Reply
  3. Walter Kahler says:

    Again, thanks Karen for sharing a beautiful piece with a new way of thinking about how it was like at Christ’s birth. Excellent point on God’s new Covenant with man regarding sin. Redemption is God’s way of allowing us relief from what happened in the Garden.
    Have a great weekend and God Bless you and your family.

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  4. Rachel says:

    Oh, good point. The enmity between man & God was over. Right. We have victory in Christ. I was thinking that since Satan has the deed to planet earth for a time, we are at war w/ HIM & then Jesus comes in as a baby born to a humble couple to enable us to stand against HIM. What human would have come up with that strategy! But I see that perspective. Very good!

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  5. Rachel says:

    Yeah! I like how John Eldrege describes the birth of Christ as an invasion behind enemy lines & uses a passage from the Revelation {which I can’t remember} to show the heavenly perspective on what was happening. Ravi Zacharias points out that a child was born, but a SON was GIVEN. Christ exists forever, outside of time & He is the eternal GOD come to earth.

    I also love any time someone can work John Lennon into a devotional!

    Reply
    1. Karen says:

      I’ve heard the idea of the birth being an invasion. I was thinking that maybe instead of an offensive, it was the announcement of a decisive victory… and would have been a relief to battle-worn (angelic) soldiers. Kind of like news from the front lines that might have told them that a key battle had been achieved and the end of the war was in sight.
      and yes, Ravi Zacharias is absolutely correct. All this was taking place in the timeline of history from our perspective, but nothing has ever been in doubt from the vantage point of the Trinity.

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