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In Excelsis Deo

Today’s well-known Christmas song speaks of God’s angels singing “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (click to hear pronunciation), which is Latin for “Glory to God in the highest”. This beautiful hymn is also known as the Angelic Hymn/Hymn of the Angels.

Note that the Bible also speaks of fallen angels, but this message is about God’s angels. Angels of God have important roles. The word “angel” means “messenger.” It was the angel Gabriel who came with a message from God to tell Mary that she was to conceive and give birth to Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Angels are protectors ... for instance, when God sent an angel to protect Daniel and shut the mouths of the lions. God’s Angels worship Him. Hebrews 1:6“And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” (The “firstbegotten” refers to Jesus Christ, Who is also God.)

Luke 2:8-15 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

Song Lyrics: Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing over the plains; and the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains, “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song? Gloria in excelsis Deo! Come to Bethlehem to see Him Whose birth the angels sing. Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord the newborn King! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Many Christmas songs today don’t even speak of Jesus or the biblical account of His birth. Rudolph and Frosty are great, but are we teaching our children songs about the first Christmas and the reason we celebrate … to give Glory to God in the highest for Christ the Lord, our newborn King?

Artists: The Piano Guys, Peter Hollens, David Archuleta, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Writers: Unknown French original; English paraphrase by James Chadwick, 1862


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