“Angels We Have Heard On High”

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

“Angels We Have Heard On High” is a French hymn written in 1843 and paraphrased into English by James Chadwick in 1862. It’s based on the following passage from Luke’s Gospel:

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!

It’s one of my favourite Christmas hymns. It expresses the joy and celebration of the good news of the Messiah’s birth, a joy that we can each experience thanks to the arrival of Jesus into our world and into our lives.

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