Echo Their Joyous Strain

    “The song of the angels.”  That’s what Martin Luther called the Gloria in Excelsis.  It is the heavenly song of the Angels from the night when Christ was born.  It’s origin, however, is much earlier than Luther, yea, it comes from the early centuries of the church.
    The earliest form comes from the fourth century (c. 300s), but it may be earlier.  The way in which it uses language is akin to the Magnificat and Benedictus. The Gloria’s ancient origins come from the Eastern tradition in the morning service.  Its addition to the Western service probably came from a Christmas Vigil.
    It is a hymn of adoration to the whole Trinity, first addressed to the Father.  Its middle portion has a list of acclamations to the Son.  It reaches its pinnacle of adoration when it addresses both Christ and the Holy Ghost as “most high in the glory of God the Father.”
    While it came into the service at Christmas it is most appropriate to sing it in other seasons as well. Because of its joyous exuberant tone it is not sung in the seasons of Advent and Lent – both being more penitential seasons of the church year.  It is also well placed being after the Kyrie, for it is a response to the Kyrie with joyous voices of God’s people as they celebrate the sending of His Son to be the Savior of the world.
    Singing it every Sunday is good, for each Sunday we play the part of the shepherds.  During the Service of the Word the angels of heaven come once again and sing with us.  It’s the answer to our prayers, and it shows us where to go to find the Savior.  He is no longer in the manger of straw, but in the manger of Holy Scripture.
    In Holy Scripture we can “go and see what has taken place, of which the angels sing.”  We will also soon get to eat with Him of Whom the angels sing.  He will give dine with us and give us His body and blood for our forgiveness life and salvation.
    Salvation came in Christ in Bethlehem, but it very much comes to us still each Lord’s Day.  This Gloria raises the angels’ voices in the Service of the Word, and they are heard again in the Sanctus, but the Words also echo John the Baptizer’s words kept in the Agnus Dei.
    Salvation was the purpose when the angels sang over the fields of Bethlehem, and the purpose of these words is still salvation.  Salvation received in Font, Keys, and Supper.  The angels each week bid us to go to Christ, and receive his gifts.  All we must do is say, “Amen!” Gift received.  Then we just echo their joyous strain, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!”  In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

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