Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains, and the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strains. Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!
We have been using the refrain of this hymn throughout the season of Advent as a sort of “Gloria Patri” following the prayer of confession and assurance of pardon each Sunday. As a special treat, we were going to sing the entire hymn in that place this past Sunday morning for Advent 4. Unfortunately, we got so caught up in passing the peace, and enjoying loving on one another, that I outright forgot.
In the end, we decided to do this famous “Gloria” in a different place that morning. Following the reading of the scriptures and the retelling of A Christmas Carol, as our reflection for the morning, we sang the carol as a response. It was, in fact, just as fitting a place, if not an even better one than the original plan.
If the Advent and Christmas seasons teach us anything, it is that things rarely go to plan. If we are brave enough to embrace this reality, we often will find what we did that morning: the result is often far stronger and more fun.
Like Charles Dickens’ classic tale, we have the choice to be like Ebenezer Scrooge and to hoard all we have, to keep everything in our control, to force everything to go to plan. Inevitably, however, we will likely find that something will break into that white-knuckled grip and attempt to shake us free.
Now, we do not have to heed the wisdom and warnings of such in-breakings. Yet, we will often find that when we do, when we embrace the seeming accidents, the messy realities, the real change, that is where we will see our life become what it was always meant to be.
Christ’s arrival is just such an in-breaking for all of us. God is breaking into the world, knocking on the doors of our hearts, and asking us to heed the tide of love that is already taking hold of our world. So, will we shut ourselves in like Scrooge on Christmas Eve, or will we move with joy to embrace the world in love like Scrooge on Christmas Morning?
I can tell you, in all certainty, that it is the later who would join this heavenly song: Come to Bethlehem and see him whose birth the angels sing; come, adore on bended knee Christ, the Lord, the newborn King. Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!