Day 21: Angels We Have Heard on High

At first glance, this Christmas carol doesn’t appear to have a whole lot of theological depth. It’s just a re-telling of the events of the nativity in four stanzas. In fact, this old French carol doesn’t even have a known author; it’s anonymous.

And yet…

And yet, in the refrain that follows each of the stanzas, there is a simple but profound Latin phrase that is both proclamation and invitation:

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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

The English translation is “Glory to God in the Highest!” It’s the song the angels sang to the shepherds, recorded in Luke 2:14. That’s the proclamation part.

The invitation part is that we are invited to sing the same song with our lives. It’s why we were created – to glorify God. Not just in a weekly worship service. Not just by singing. But by living.

Paul said it this way in one of my favorite paragraphs in all scripture:

Because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God,
for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ
would bring praise and glory to God

(Ephesians 1:11-12 NLT)

Most of those reading this post aren’t Jews, I suppose, but they were the original audience of this letter. All who read it now as believers, however, are to hear the same message: God’s purpose in saving us through Christ was that we would bring praise and glory to God. It’s why He created us and why he saved us. It was and is and always will be first and foremost about Him.

In 1 Peter 4, Peter describes the various gifts that God has given each of us, and calls us to use them with gusto. He ends the paragraph by saying:

Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies.
Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ.
All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen.

(1 Peter 4:11 NLT)

Paul echoes this sentiment in Romans 6:13:

Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.
Instead, give yourselves completely to God,
for you were dead, but now you have new life.
So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right 
for the glory of God.

And again in 1 Corinthians 10:31:

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo! Glory to God in the highest! It’s why we were created. It’s why God sent Jesus at Christmas. It’s what we’ll be doing for eternity.

Might as well get started!

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