We now find ourselves in the midst of Christmas, which, like other important celebrations of the liturgical year, is a season, not a single feast day. There is movement and direction leading us through the story, providing time and space for the marvels and mystery to unfold. Culture is unable to sustain its attention once the gifts are opened and the turkey eaten. But our story calls us to pay attention to the details, to take time to read both Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the Christmas wonders. The first chapter of John inspires us to keep the eternal perspective always in view. The liturgy creates space to keep singing the hymns that connect these dots, the poetry that links temporal with eternal, the carols that otherwise would be abandoned with the Christmas wrapping paper.
James Montgomery was born in Scotland in 1771, the son of a Moravian Brethren missionary. Although he studied theology, his career was established in Sheffield, England: he was the owner and editor of the local newspaper. His poem Angels From the Realms of Glory combines the elements of the mid-Christmas journey. Especially as we head to Epiphany, we are reminded to leave our contemplation: to seek out and proclaim the child king. Follow the star. Come and worship!
The tune “Regent Square” has become the most popular for this hymn, but many recordings use the same tune as its similarly named counterpart, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. This week’s playlist includes one of each tune, along with a segment from a BBC documentary featuring the origin of the popular service of Nine Lessons and Carols.
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: refrain: Come and worship, come and worship Worship Christ, the newborn King. Shepherds, in the fields abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night, God with man is now residing, Yonder shines the infant light: Sages, leave your contemplations, Brighter visions beam afar; Seek the great Desire of nations, Ye have seen his natal star:
Though an infant now we view him, He shall fill his Father’s throne, Gather all the nations to him; Every knee shall then bow down:
All creation, join in praising God the Father, Spirit, Son, Evermore your voices raising, To th’eternal Three in One: