Bethlehem Devotionals – Angels We Have Heard on High

Angels We Have Heard on High

As we prepare for the Christmas holiday, I am reflecting on several carols.  Today, let’s look at a few verses from“Angels We Have Heard on High”.

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plain
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Shepherd why this jubilee
Why your joyous strains prolong
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo

During the month of November, my wife and I led a church group tour to the Holy Land, Israel. One of the places we visited was Bethlehem and the Shepherd’s Field.









Luke 2:4-18 reminds us of the glorious event which the carol describes:

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Why would the Lord first announce the Messiah’s birth to lowly shepherds? Why would Jesus’ birth story begin in a barn (actually it was a cave in which animals were kept)?  Scripture reveals that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.”

Shepherds were considered to be so low in Jewish religious society that they were not allowed to go into synagogues. They were from poor and uneducated families.  Their jobs were one of the most despised, dirty and stinkiest in the nation.  But God chose to announce the good news of the birth of His Son, Jesus our Savior, first to shepherds because He had you and me in mind even then.  He chose shepherds because they had  simple hearts.

God chose a stable so no innkeeper could boast.  He chose a manger so that no carpenter or mason could boast.  He chose Bethlehem so no one could boast about the grandeur of their city.  That’s why the Herod and the scribes missed identifying it in Matthew 2:6.   And God chose you and me to know His Son, our Savior, according to Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Each day and especially during the Christmas season, lets follow the path of the shepherds and embrace a simple and humble heart.  It always leads us to Jesus and to places where God will reveal Himself to each of us.

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