Sunday, December 13, 2009

Angels From the Realms of Glory (Part 2)

Notice the first four verses cover, in order, the first individuals (or groups) who recognized Christ for who He is- God in flesh- to be worshiped.

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;

Montgomery points out the first announcement of Messiah’s coming to earth comes from the same beings who witnessed Christ create the heavens and the earth! The angels were created before mankind and therefore were witnesses of the creation of the heavens and the earth and all that they contain, including man himself. Angels have long been used by God for multiple purposes. Angels appear in the Old Testament 108 times and 186 times in the New Testament. Now, at the beginning of the NT, the pronouncement of Messiah’s Advent is carried out by an angel and reaffirmed by the “heavenly host” (See Luke 2:7-15).

Shepherds in the fields abiding,
Watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant light:

Second to witness the birth of Christ were the most unlikely characters- shepherds keeping their flocks by night. Shepherds were a nomadic lot, even considered outcasts in most parts of Israel. Shepherds were normally very poor. Moses or David might come to mind when you think of a shepherd, but these were not the norm. Even they were actually keeping flocks for others- Moses for Jethro and David for his father. Most of the time, shepherds were keeping someone else’s sheep. Point being- they were generally poor, social outcasts, looked down upon, and avoided. Yet, God chooses to announce the birth of Christ to these social outcasts first! (See Luke 2:7-10)

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen his natal star:

Third to witness the birth of Christ were some mysterious visitors from the East.
The ESV translates the Greek word “Magi” as “wise men”. Montgomery describes them as “sages”. Scholars debate who these visitors were exactly, but most agree they were some kind of star-readers astronomers in their day. The Star of Bethlehem is a study of its own. Several explanations have been offered for this phenomenon. Perhaps it was an alignment of Jupiter, the Sun and our moon? It could have been any old star given more power for this event- maybe even a supernova. Whatever the case, the magi were drawn to this anomalous event. Legend has taught there were three wise men because of the three gifts given to the Christ child (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), however, there could have been a whole school of “wise men” or just a few. What makes these magi significant is their apparent non-Jewish ethnicity. In a way, they represent Gentiles coming to worship Christ. Montgomery captures this in this third verse when he says they seek the great “desire of nations"- not just the Jews. Leave your contemplations- put down your books and discussions, get up and go see him! (See Matthew 2:1-14)

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In his temple shall appear;

The angels,shepherds,and the sages have all taken their place of worship before Christ the newborn King, now Montgomery bids the Saints to do the same! Who are the saints? Biblically speaking, those who trust in God’s Redeemer. Simeon is a wonderful example of one who looked forward as the hymn states: “watching long in hope and fear”. (See Luke 2:25-34). This call for Saints to come and worship the newborn King is extended to us. Don’t leave it to the angels, shepherds, and sages…or the saints who have gone before us alone- we should take our place in redemptive history worshiping Christ in this day and age. With beautiful, balanced symmetry, we come to the last verse which completes this universal call to worship-

All creation, join in praising
God the Father, Spirit, Son;
Evermore your voices raising
To th'eternal Three in One:

While not written by Montgomery, this well-crafted Trinitarian closing verse is one we often use to close our Sunday morning worship services. All creation, join in praising! The angels created before mankind begin worshiping Christ from the time of His Advent (maybe sooner). The shepherds are called to worship the newborn King. The sages travel for miles to worship the Jewish King who is actually Earth’s King. The saints-the community of the Redeemed- you and I- are called to bend the knee to King Jesus. Finally, all creation- every created thing- is called to join us in praising the Triune, Thrice-Holy, God. So, we are brought full circle as it relates to our purpose in life! We are to be worshipers of God.

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


Woody Woodward said...

Great observations towards meaningful adoration of Christ's coming celebration worship. But I have a question from yesterday’s sermon. You made humorous mention of all the lame, lost non-Christians doing a Christmas albums, for whatever reason? I got a kick out of thinking of those who would rush to buy Neal Diamond’s and radical Barbara Streisand’s vain attempts. You mentioned one dude I have not heard of, who was probably a rap-star. Of course that’s not saying much since I am no appreciator of “today’s music”.

Reepicheep said...

Ronnie James Dio's cover of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"

You asked for it:

Zach said...


I'm really enjoying this series, but the two pieces discussed so far are more Christmas hymns than Advent.

How about reviewing some of the great hymns of the faith particular to Advent --such as "Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying", "Come, Thou Long- Expected Jesus", or "On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry"?

Nathan said...

Zogby poll has Oh Holy Night as #1 then the next 7 have nothing to do with Christ.

Woody Woodward said...

Boy, that ole' burned out dude looks like he has been riding the hard rock and put away wet far too many times!
I listened to about 15 seconds and I had enough. Wonder what goes through the minds of those who record a song that glorifies Christ but yet they couldn't tell you the difference between Jesus from a Giraffe?

Reepicheep said...

Woody, go easy on Ronnie James D. He's currently battling stomach cancer...

Zach, fair enough, my next hymn is more Adventy: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel