Have you noticed how often angels are mentioned in Christmas carols? Run through a few in your head and think about what the angels are doing and what message they are bringing – seriously, do it – it will knock your socks off. Why? Because, as well as being dazzling, awe inspiring, mysterious entities, the angels are the ones who tell the story of the incarnation from Heaven’s perspective. They interpret the events that are happening in the physical world and show what they mean in terms of eternity.
Hark, the herald angels sing glory to the new born king
Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.
One of my favourite carols, written in the mid18th century, is all about angels.
It came upon the midnight clear that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.
Peace on the earth, good will to men from Heaven’s all gracious king.
The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing
Unusually, that is the only verse in the carol that refers directly to the Nativity. The next three verses describe how the angels have continued to sing throughout history, bringing God’s message of hope and joy, but their song has very often fallen on deaf ears.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife, the world has suffered long
Beneath the angel strain have rolled 2000 years of wrong
And man at war with man hears not the love song that they bring
O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing
O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing.
Beautiful and evocative words but what do they mean? In what sense are the angels singing and how can we hear them?
The angels in this carol remind me that, no matter what happens in life, God is always there, reaching out to me in love, if only I can still myself enough to sense his presence.
So, this Christmas, think about the wonderful truths in those carols; read the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel; tune in to Christmas services however you can: on line, on the radio or on television. But most of all, make time to be still and hear the angels sing.