In the popular Christmas hymn, Angels We Have Heard on High, the opening line describes angels singing God’s praises over the open fields. Their cry is retained in the famous Latin phrase, “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” which translated means, “Glory to God in the highest!” It’s taken from Luke 2:14, where the angels joyfully sing God’s praise.
Too often seen as shrouded in mystical experiences or lost in speculative theology, angels are either ignored or relegated to the thoughts of a few especially spiritual people. The rampant materialism and anti-supernaturalism of the world has caused Christians to question the presence and influence of angels. Reflecting on angels is thought of as impractical and useless.
Sadly, many Christians today are ignorant to the startling and strengthening ministry of angels. This unfortunate neglect has blinded believers of an excellent model for Christian living. Not only did they minister to Jesus and the apostles, they minister to believers today. One of the most important ways this happens is through their example to us. This is most notable in the model they provide for us in their enjoyment of God. We sing this in Angels We Have Heard on High.
They Worship God
The angels cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). In another passage, we see them raising their voices to exclaim, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12). On the day of Christ’s first advent, we hear them celebrate Jesus’s kingship before the shepherds. We hear him lauded for bringing peace.
Repeatedly in Scripture, angels joyfully proclaim the infinite worth of God’s name. It is their duty and delight to worship the Lord. Their enjoyment and satisfaction in him does not stand still. It overflows into declarations of praise. In this hymn, they’re seen “sweetly singing” the “gladsome tidings” that the Christ has come.
Their joy increases exponentially when God is prized among people. The spread of joy in Christ among people intensifies worship among the angels. Jesus tells us, “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
They Worship God in Community
When Christians come before God in worship, they are joining something that is already happening. Believers are participating with “innumerable angels in festal gathering” (Hebrews 12:22). This amazing hymn begins with the angels in the first stanza. Then, the hymn shows us that the shepherds are inspired by the chorus of angels. In other words, angels provide a model, which “inspire(s) heavenly songs.” Lastly, all are invited to “come adore on bended knee” and join in the “joyous strain” of the angels. Everyone is welcomed to marvel and join in the amazement at the person and work of Christ. It should fill our hearts with awe and wonder before our transcendent Creator and King.
We rarely see unaccompanied angels. They’re always in community with other angels. The picture we see in this hymn is a grand chorus of angels, crying aloud together in unison. They form a holy society, delighting in the Lord together. Recalling the vision in Isaiah, the angels call out to one another. They encourage one another to praise his moral perfections and his divine purity.
How does this realization affect our attitude in worship, knowing that we are joining a host of countless angels in praise? If we have feelings of loneliness and isolation in our Christian walk, be encouraged that we are far from alone.
A Model for Christian Hedonism
We deprive ourselves of joy when we neglect the angels because angels provide an excellent model for Christian Hedonism. As we see them carry out the divine purposes of God in the Scriptures, we should emulate their uninhibited worship and joyful obedience.
Their exemplary devotion should cause Christians to prioritize worship and obedience in every aspect of their lives. Angels carry out their tasks with delight. The Psalms urge us likewise, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:2). The joyful praise of God is a command, not a piece of advice. It’s not a suggestion or a recommendation. We are called to join the angels in this happy devotion.
In teaching his disciples to pray, Jesus asked that the Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). The direct inference is that the Father’s good and perfect will is done to its exact specifications in heaven. The Lord’s Prayer is asking that this perfect obedience be mirrored here on earth. Undoubtedly, the angels are an integral part of that beautiful heavenly reality. So, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we’re actually asking that our behavior be like the angels’.
During this advent season, we’re invited to,
Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ whose birth the angels sing.
Yes, come and see Jesus, our Lord, Savior, and greatest Treasure, and be inspired by his angels.