“Angels We Have Heard on High” is a beloved Christmas carol that has been cherished for generations. This song captures the essence of the Christmas story and conveys a message of joy, wonder, and reverence. Let’s reflect on the lyrics and the history of this timeless holiday song.
“Angels We Have Heard on High” is a traditional French carol known as “Les Anges dans Nos Campagnes,” which translates to “The Angels in Our Countryside.” The original French lyrics were written by an unknown author, and the melody is attributed to an even older French song. The English lyrics were later written by James Chadwick in the mid-19th century.
The song’s opening lines, “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains,” evoke a sense of wonder and awe as the shepherds in the fields listen to the angelic choir announcing the birth of Jesus. The imagery of angels singing in the heavens, and their joyous strains echoing off the mountains, creates a vivid scene of celestial celebration.
The chorus, “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” (Glory to God in the highest), is a Latin phrase that emphasizes the spiritual significance of the event. This phrase is part of the angels’ proclamation to the shepherds, highlighting the divine nature of Jesus’ birth and the message of hope and salvation that it brings.
The second verse raises a question to the shepherds: “Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?” This verse invites listeners to consider the profound impact of Jesus’ birth. The shepherds’ jubilation symbolizes the joy that emanates from the realization that the long-awaited Savior has come into the world.
As the song progresses, it encourages listeners to come to Bethlehem to witness the newborn King. The invitation to “Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King” underscores the humility and reverence associated with the nativity scene. The imagery of kneeling before the manger reinforces the idea of acknowledging Jesus as the divine King.
The final verse brings together the holy family and the angelic hosts. It acknowledges the role of Mary and Joseph in nurturing the infant Jesus while the choirs of angels sing their praises. This verse underscores the unity of heaven and earth in celebrating the miracle of Christ’s birth.
“Angels We Have Heard on High” continues to resonate with people worldwide due to its timeless message of celebrating the birth of Jesus and the joy it brings to the world. The song’s historical origins and its poetic and musical beauty contribute to its enduring popularity as a cherished part of the Christmas tradition.
1. 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!
2. Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?
3. Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
4. See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.
“Teachings of the song”
The song “Angels We Have Heard on High” conveys several meaningful teachings that are inherent in the Christmas story and the message of Christ’s birth. Here are some of the key lessons that can be derived from the lyrics of the song:
- Divine Announcement: The song begins with the angels’ announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. This emphasizes the idea that the birth of Jesus was a divine event, celebrated by heavenly messengers. It teaches us that significant moments in life are often marked by divine intervention and guidance.
- Joy and Celebration: The joyful strains of the angels’ singing and the jubilation of the shepherds exemplify the spirit of celebration associated with Christ’s birth. This teaches us the importance of rejoicing in moments of hope, love, and new beginnings.
- Humility and Reverence: The invitation to “Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King” reminds us of the humility and reverence that should accompany our approach to Christ. It teaches us that acknowledging Christ’s divinity involves a posture of humility and a heart full of reverence.
- Inclusivity: The shepherds, who were considered ordinary and humble individuals, were among the first to hear the angels’ message and witness the newborn King. This highlights the idea that the message of Christ’s birth is for all people, regardless of their social status or background. It teaches us about the inclusive nature of God’s love and salvation.
- Unity of Heaven and Earth: The imagery of angels singing praises and shepherds visiting the manger demonstrates the connection between the heavenly realm and the earthly world. It teaches us that the story of Christ’s birth bridges the gap between the divine and the human, reminding us of the profound unity that exists in the spiritual realm.
- Gift of Salvation: The birth of Jesus is often referred to as the gift of salvation to humanity. The song’s emphasis on Christ the Lord being born and the angels proclaiming “Gloria, in excelsis Deo” highlights the significance of Christ’s coming as the Savior. It teaches us about the redemptive and transformative power of Christ’s presence in our lives.
- Witness and Worship: The shepherds’ response to the angelic announcement is to go to Bethlehem, witness the miracle, and worship the newborn King. This teaches us the importance of responding to God’s calling, seeking a personal encounter with Christ, and offering our worship and adoration.
In essence, “Angels We Have Heard on High” reminds us of the profound spiritual truths associated with the Christmas story: the divine nature of Jesus’ birth, the joy of salvation, the humility and inclusivity of God’s love, and the unity between heaven and earth. These teachings continue to inspire and guide individuals as they reflect on the message of Christmas and its enduring significance.