Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With the angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Christ, by highest Heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord; Late in time, behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.
Charles Wesley 1739, altered by George Whitefield 1758. Music by Mendelson in 1840.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,
‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Some people do believe in angels – holding that pure white feathers lying on the ground are from angels’ wings; others say ‘don’t be ridiculous they are from the seagulls.’ Some believe that we are angels to one another – how often do we say ‘you’re an angel!’ when someone does us a kindness?
But of course we see angels all through both Luke and Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’ birth. In Luke the angel is named – Gabriel and he (or should that be she?) first appears to Zechariah in the temple. Zechariah was terrified but Gabriel said DO NOT BE AFRAID and went on to say that his wife would conceive in her old age and have a son whom Zechariah will name John. Then Gabriel came to Mary when Elizabeth was six months pregnant and said to Mary DO NOT BE AFRAID she would bear a son, he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. An angel (unnamed) appears in to Joseph and said to him DO NOT BE AFRAID to take Mary as your wife.
The angels are quiet then for a while, appearing to the shepherds telling them DO NOT BE AFRAID I am bringing Good News. Here Wesley’s hymn reflects today’s passage.
All the people the angels appeared to were scared. The angels reassured them, saying to all of them DO NOT BE AFRAID. Sometimes we feel afraid of all sorts of things and my own prayer this Christmas is a prayer for trust that I do not need to be afraid. It is also a prayer of thanksgiving. My prayer is for remembrance of that time when angels sang and the newborn King was given glory. As you sing the hymns today, just as that host of angels sang Glory to God in the highest over two thousand years ago, I wish you all happiness, peace and love.
Lord God as I waken this Christmas morn I remember your Son, Mary’s baby was born I remember the song the angels sing and the message of peace and goodwill they bring.
The angel said ‘Do not be afraid!’ help me to trust these words that were said to a priest, peasants and shepherds long ago thank you Lord that this was so,
And at Christmas Day’s end as I go to sleep I pray your love my soul will keep and the joy and love of this Christmas day with my family and friends will always stay. Amen
The Rev’d Lena Talbot, Minister of Revidge Fold, Trinity Brownhill and Westbury Gardens Churches