The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
client login


     Penned as a poem by James Montgomery, the Christmas hymn “Angels, From the Realms of Glory” first appeared in a London newspaper the Sheffield Register on December 24, 1816. Later this poem was published as “Good Tidings of Great Joy to All People” in a hymnal entitled Montgomery’s Original Hymns. Considered one of the finest Christmas hymns, each verse issues a challenge to worship the Christ of Christmas with the four verses focusing on the angels, the shepherds, the magi, and all believers respectively. The familiar words of the first verse address the divine messengers.

 Angels, from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth;

Ye who sang creation’s story, Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:

Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King!

     Luke’s account of the encounter between angels and some shepherds when Jesus was born (Luke 2:8-20) points to several aspects of the message of Christmas. First, the message of Christmas is Relational as God comes to us where we are just like He came to the shepherds who tended sheep. The message of Christmas also is relational inasmuch as God cares for us because of who we are, namely, the crowning work of His creation (Genesis 1:26, 31). Further, the message of Christmas is relational because God calls us as we are regardless of any worldly position, prestige, power, or popularity that may have been attained and in spite of our faults, flaws, fallacies, and foibles. The shepherds had little standing in society but God came to them, cared about them, and called them to come to the manger.
     The message of Christmas is Confrontational as the angel confronted the shepherds with a message from heaven. This angel of the Lord delivered a message from the Lord and the glory of the Lord shone all around the shepherds. This divine confrontation commanded the attention of the shepherds and they responded with reverential fear and awe. For the shepherds, the encounter with the angel was a “heaven came down and glory filled my soul” experience.
     The heavenly encounter between the angel and the shepherds resounded with a message of hope that included the good news of great joy concerning the birth of a Savior who is Christ the Lord! Not only did the angel confront the shepherds with this heavenly message of hope, but the good news of great joy also was a message for all humanity as “all people” are confronted with the announcement of the birth of Jesus…God incarnate…the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
     From previous study of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, I recognized the message with which the angel confronted the shepherds and all of humanity led the shepherds (and humankind throughout history) to a crisis of belief requiring faith and action. Against the backdrop of faith and action, the glorious message of Christmas is Invitational as the hearers of the message are invited to rejoice in worship (vv. 13 & 20), to reflect with wonder (v. 19), and to respond in witness (v. 17).

     As we come to the conclusion of a year that has been incredibly unique and far short of anything normal or expected, my prayer is that the message of Christmas will be proclaimed boldly and projected broadly in our worship and through our witness. “Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King.”