Angels We Have Heard on High

Brenda Nail DeLauder


“Angels We Have Heard on High” is one of the most beautiful carols, yet like so many well-known hymns, the author is anonymous. I wonder if they avoided personal claim because they felt the words were God given. We know this carol came from France and in 1862 James Chadwick translated it. Then in 1937 Edward Shippen Barnes arranged it to the music we know today. There are some variations to the words, but I chose the one I have known since I was a small child. We were taught to sing out loudly and it was a lot less embarrassing if we knew the words we belted out. Mae Upchurch did not deck out her children’s choir in little white smocks with big annoying bows to mumble the words.

Angels we have heard on high

On a cold clear night near Christmas, I love to go outside and look up at the sky dotted with millions of glimmering lights. I can only imagine the majestic sound of the angels as they sang of the glorious birth of Jesus Christ. As awestruck as the shepherds were, it wasn’t the heavenly host they were to focus on, but the important message the angels brought.

Sweetly singing o’er the plain

At the farm, I enjoy walking out to the edge of the open field and if the breeze is blowing just right, nature’s music whistling through the grass can be heard. A sense of peace will fill me and I know I am standing in the presence of Christ my King. In my mind I can see the heavenly choir causing every living creature to raise their heads to listen and rejoice.

And the mountains in reply

While creation listened, the sweet sounds moved throughout the open plain growing in strength, bouncing off every mountain, and ricocheting into the valleys. Soon the whole earth could hear the joyful good tidings of the birth.

Echoing their joyous strain

Standing outside in the peacefulness of the evening, I imagine that night, hearing nature’s joyful rhythm increasing. Picture every blade of grass, every shrub and tree swaying to the music of the heavens. God’s earth welcomed the precious Christ Child. Picturing the angels filling the night sky and singing with voices more beautiful than any other, gives me a tingling awareness of God’s loving goodness to all the earth.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo! Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Glo-o-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o! This means glory to God in the highest. In Luke 2:14, the angels said “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” It is the proclamation praising God for the event of His Son’s birth.

We decorate heavily for Christmas at our house. One afternoon I was working on setting up a nativity in the family room, moving along quickly adding angels all around it, just as I have done for years. A little more squeezing the manger scene together and I’d be able to fit that last angel into place. With it still in my hand, I suddenly stopped. My desire had always been to display many of the heavenly hosts, but this time it hit me, “Where was Jesus?” Amidst all the angels, had I lost focus of the manger? Rearranging the set up, Jesus became more visible, and hopefully not just in the nativity.

In all the decorating, special events, fun and excitement Christmas brings each year, let us not forget the rich blessing which came to us by way of a manger all those years ago. He still lives today in our hearts. Rejoice and lift up your voice to sing of His glory!

Merry Christmas!

Brenda Nail DeLauder is a native of Henry County. Her heart remains in her hometown.