Gloria in Excelsis Deo! Praise the Lord!
I was in fifth grade when my mother, who is now a 40-year-plus member of the First Baptist Church choir in Monticello, Ky., was singing in the community Christmas concert at the large Nazarene church in our town. There were over 120 choristers; and for our small town, that was a pretty big deal.
Mama Leila (grandma), my dad and I were in the congregation. There was definite electricity in the air that night in worship. There came a point in the service when my Uncle Norman, who directed the massive choir, turned to the congregation to have us sing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” along with the century chorus.
Mama Leila is a fervent worshipper; though she passed on nearly 20 years ago, she is now worshipping in His presence. Mama Leila taught me to sing congregationally with abandon. Dad was not a singer … period. But, he was quite moved by the performance and the overwhelming Spirit that night. “…what the gladsome tidings be, which inspire your heavenly song.” I took a huge breath for the famous melismatic Latin chorus which we translate as Glory to God in the Highest – “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” when I saw my father’s mouth start to open in time to the music. He was going to do it. He was going to belt out the chorus with Mama Leila and me.
A deep, loud almost unintelligible sound came from straight behind us. Almost subsonic in nature, the voice sang “Gloria” with an impressive gusto that was approximately an octave-and-a-half below the melody. My father’s mouth snapped tightly shut. Dad was not a singer, but Dad knew right notes from wrong – later he told me he didn’t want anyone to think that ‘amazing voice’ was his.
We are all sensitive in our maiden voyage of corporate worship – case in point, my dad dropped anchor before ever leaving the dock. He allowed this opportunity of adoration to be taken from him, and Dad remained for that beautiful moment of Christmas worship – a spectator. What Dad didn’t know is that Jesus, like now, is waiting for us to sing to Him on His birthday.
Here’s a statement that will probably evoke an email or two. Despite lyrics of the aforementioned great carol by a man with a great name, John Francis Wade … the angels announcing Christ’s birth to the shepherds did not necessarily sing.
Generally translations agree on the 13th verse of Luke 2 – “Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying …” (HCSB). In checking over 20 translations, only NIV and The Message referred to what the angels did that night as singing. Even Today’s New International Version corrects its predecessor, the NIV, and says, “praising God and saying … .”
What’s the Greek? According to Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary the word in the 13th verse for praising is ainos, which means – “a story;” it is a root for laudation.
Allow me to also state that even if the angels did (and still do) sing, it is not the song of the redeemed (Rev. 5:9, 14:3).
2. The existence of ‘singing’ angels is biblically unrevealed.
As cool as it would be to have rocks cry to Jesus, they are not the redeemed. So, let’s stop taking our singing ‘for granite’ … (I am so sorry about that). Instead, for His birthday, make a decision to praise the Lord with our beautiful song: The song of the redeemed!
Remember, God made your voice . . . He can take it! (John Francis is worship specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention and host of the podcast, MoWorship. www.mobaptist.org/worship.)