Angels We Have Heard on High — Carols of Advent Joy

Scripture Focus: John 4.28-30, 39
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

Luke 2.15-18
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

From John: I personally have been very much looking forward to the next two weeks. Jon Polk has always been one of the key sources in my life to learn about unique music and artists worth discovering. He is a music connoisseur and collector with a massive collection of music, both on his shelves and in his heart. I know you will be blessed by his exploration of the carols of Advent.

Reflection: Angels We Have Heard on High — Carols of Advent Joy
By Jon Polk

Whenever I recall the familiar passage from Luke chapter two, I cannot help but hear it narrated from the classic words of the King James Version in the voice of philosopher and theologian, Linus Van Pelt.

“Lights, please. ‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…’” (Luke 2.8)

The grandiose birth announcement proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds is one of the iconic images of the Christmas story. What Christmas pageant doesn’t feature a couple of shepherds in bathrobes and an angel in a white baptismal robe with a glorious, gold glitter halo?

Of course, this portion of the nativity narrative also forms the basis of many of the carols of Christmas. You may recognize one of the favorites as the “Glo-o-o-o-o-o-ria” song.

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echo back their joyous strains.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” is an English paraphrase of a traditional French Christmas carol, “Les Anges dans Nos Compagnes” (literally, ‘the angels in our countryside’), by James Chadwick, Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, England. The flourishing chorus, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” is Latin for “Glory to God in the highest,” the first line proclaimed by the gathered angelic host in Luke’s nativity account.

Picture the scene. Shepherds in the countryside somewhere out beyond the edge of the city. Tired, weary, and worn out from the day’s work, but they still must take shifts watching the sheep overnight. Their occupation places them on the lowest rung of the first century social and economic ladder.

Everything changed for them on that fateful night when they heard that first “Glory to God in the highest!”

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song.

Joy. Radically transforming, immense, unmistakable joy. These shepherds, normally social outcasts, are now the first ones to be privy to the good news of great joy. What do they do after they find the baby? They head into town to spread the joyous news! 

Look for those around you who need a little joy this year. Spend some time this Advent season spreading joy however you can. We can all provide an encouraging word, a helping hand, or a few extra moments of our time. Like those early shepherds in the countryside, we carry a joy that is designed to be given away.

After all, in the words of Linus Van Pelt, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Listen: Angels We Have Heard on High by Future of Forestry
Listen: Les Anges dans Nos Compagnes by Bruce Cockburn
Read: Lyrics from Hymnary.org

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it. — Psalm 118.24

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 1 (Listen – 3:37)
John 4 (Listen – 6:37)

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In The Face of Wonder :: A Guided Prayer

Luke 1.46-47
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

Reflection: In The Face of Wonder :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Before she delivered Jesus as a child, Mary delivered the gospel. 

Mary’s powerful confession, prayer, and prophecy, shows her familiarity with the scriptures and an intimate connection with God like the prophets of old. God’s Spirit breaks through into the world through the worship that is initiated by Elizabeth and Mary’s joyful reunion.

Pray this prayer repeatedly over the weekend, seeking God’s face and asking Him to break through into your world, asking him to speak the gospel through your worship and its resulting action.

Praying in Wonder, with Mary

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.

Oh, God, when your wondrous work sweeps in to our world, we have no better way to respond than worship. 

From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.

Your glory, Lord, overcoming and transforming our weaknesses is cause for our souls to sing. 

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.

Your power, Holy Spirit, working on behalf of the outcasts and the downtrodden is the beat that our boots must march to. 

He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

Your call, Jesus, beckoning us to abandon our broken world for your righteousness, is a cry for freedom. 

The freedom the world seeks is freedom to dominate, dictate, and destroy. This freedom is a lie that seeks power and blessing for ourselves.

May we seek instead the freedom to serve, to create, and to restore. We can do this only in your power and through your Holy Spirit.

Jesus come to us. Jesus come through us to the world.

Amen.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.3

Today’s Readings
Genesis 48 (Listen – 3:43) 
Luke 1.1-39-80 (Listen – 9:26)

Today’s Readings
Genesis 49 (Listen – 4:54) , Luke 2 (Listen – 6:11)
Genesis 50 (Listen – 4:07) , Luke 3 (Listen – 5:24)

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