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Gloria, in Excelsis Deo!

by | Wed, Dec 8 2021

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Angels We Have Heard on High

Angels We Have Heard On High
Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly swinging o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria In Excelsis Deo
Gloria In Excelsis Deo

Shepherds why this jubilee
Why do your joyous strains prolong
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspires your heavenly song?

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

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 are in love we raise

Of all the well-sung carols, “Angels We Have Heard On High” is one of the grandest. As we sing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” the praise rises. It’s a melody fit for an entire orchestra. And rightfully so.

“Gloria in Excelsis Deo” is a doxology that was never spoken, only sung. In Latin, it means “glory to God in the highest”. These were the words the company of angels sang to shepherds on the night of the birth of Jesus.

Originally a French carol “Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes”, the English version “Angels We Have Heard on High” was written by Bishop James Chadwick in 1862. Chadwick’s lyrics were new, and not a translation, but reflected the same theme and meaning. So it is a new work of its own. It’s no surprise that the carol quickly became popular, even to this day when many popular music artists have covered it.

A whole company of angels joyfully heralding the arrival of Jesus in unison is befitting worship to the King of Kings. It wasn’t just the angels rejoicing. Like a proud father at the birth of his firstborn, Father God was immensely proud of His one and only Son, as He would later declare at Jesus’ baptism.

What brings the whole scene so much meaning is the fact that

the angels were making this great announcement to shepherds, who were amongst the lowest of societal status at that time. It was for these that Jesus stepped out of His comfortable abode in heaven into this world. For the broken, the suffering, the downtrodden. God’s love is for everyone.

It is for each of us that sinless Christ, God in the highest became one of us, lowly, trodden, to suffer on the cross, taking on the penalty of our sins so we don’t have to. And to drive this message loud and clear, Jesus was born in the lowliest and messy of places — in a manger — a stark contrast to the grandeur of the legion of heavenly hosts singing praises.

Knowing the end of suffering that Jesus will bear on earth brings an even deeper meaning to the angels’ praise. As painful as it is to know, even as all are rejoicing, of the horrific end, the greater victory of His resurrection bringing life to all men is truly worth the big shouts of praise.

Like what has been depicted in the pilot of the series “The Chosen”, God found it fitting for shepherds to receive the King.

No matter what we think of ourselves, we can each receive the King. We can all praise in unison with the angels “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”. And like the angels, we too can shout out to others about the Good News of Jesus, who will soon again return.

Two renditions of “Angels We Have Heard on High”


Photo from the pilot of The Chosen series: The Shepherd

Reflect & Respond

  • How does knowing that God chose to announce the arrival of Jesus to the shepherds impact your view of God and your relationship with Him?
  • In choosing to leave His home and be born helpless in a lowly manger, Jesus displayed His humility and His love for the Father and us. What is your heart response to His love?
  • Can you think of someone you can share this Good News with this Christmas?

About the author: Kristine Lee a.k.a. Jin Pyn Lee is an author, writer, aspiring filmmaker, dreamer, motorcycle rider and fulltime Christian. That just means she shares the love of her life Jesus wherever and whenever. In her eulogy, she would simply like to be known as someone God loves. Connect with Kristine on www.jinpynlee.com

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