Angels We Have Heard On High




Today, we’ll start our December 2016 Historical Theme of the Month “You’re Singing History” with a new look at a wonderfully glorious song and its interesting origins. In case you’re a new reader, we did run “You’re Singing History” last year with other Christmas carols. It was so much fun we decided to do it again this year with a new set of holiday songs! (Check the archive for December 2015’s featured songs…)

There are many wonderful Christmas carols, but one of my all-time favorites is “Angels We Have Heard On High.” We’ll kick-off the holiday season with this energetic tune. What’s the history behind the song? Where did it come from? Read on to find out!Angels & Music

Angels have been associated with Christmas for centuries. Why? They’re in the Christmas accounts in the Bible. Here’s the passage from Luke 2: 8-14, New King James Version:

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

"Annunciation To The Shepherds" by David Collins

“Annunciation To The Shepherds” by David Collins

Note that it says the angels “say” – not sing. But…people have associated beautiful music with the heavenly hosts from other Scripture passages. Thus, singing angels have become part of our ideas about that first Christmas scene.

“Angels We Have Heard On High” is just one of many traditional carols which mention angels sharing the good news that Christ was born in Bethlehem. Best of all – it’s based in a historical account.

A French Carol (Borrowed By The English)

Our song of the day was originally a French carol titled “The Angels In Our Countryside” and was written by an unknown author in the region on Languedoc, France. A Catholic Bishop – James Chadwick – translated the song into English in 1862. The lyrics are traditionally sung to “Gloria,” a tune arranged by Edward Shippen Barnes.

Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing o’er the plain

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their joyous strain

(Chorus) Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?

Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be?

Which inspire your heavenly songs?


Come to Bethlehem and see

Christ Whose birth the angels sing;

Come, adore on bended knee,

Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.


See Him in a manger laid,

Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth;

Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,

With us sing our Savior’s birth.


Enjoy The Music

May your home, car, or office be filled with the “joyous strains” of Christmas music this holiday season – especially the traditional (and historic) tunes from long ago. Gloria!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. What’s your favorite Christmas song? Tell in a comment and maybe it will be featured this year or in 2017…

angels we have heard on high


3 thoughts on “Angels We Have Heard On High

  1. Pingback: Glory To The Newborn King | Gazette665

  2. Pingback: “Now Proclaim” – The Story Of A Scottish Reformer & A Christmas Hymn | Gazette665

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