Angels We Have Heard on High

Read: Luke 2:1-14

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

Not surprisingly, angels figure prominently in a lot of Christmas carols. “Angels We Have Heard on High” is another one. This traditional French carol and tune has us once more 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 plain / 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!

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’s stable: 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.

As you pray, join with all creation in praising God for coming to us in Jesus.

Listen along: Angels We Have Heard on High – Saddleback Worship

About the Author

Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.

This entry is part 14 of 25 in the series Carols and Lessons