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  • Writer's pictureJoel Elliott Mooneyhan

Songs Through Advent: Angels We Have Heard On High

"Shepherds, why this jubilee?

Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be?

Which inspire your heavenly songs?"

Almighty God comes down, not in a pillar of fire and smoke, not with chariots leading an army, but as a tiny child, born to parents who are boring, ordinary, struggling people. The newborn king is visited not by other kings, not by powerful generals, not by the dignitaries of his people, but by obscure astronomers from another region. The birth is not proclaimed by parades and marches of royal messengers, but by a group of frightened and bewildered shepherds.

It's important to understand just how counterintuitive, how ridiculous, how utterly fanciful the birth of Christ is. When you are a god, you don't lower yourself to the indignity of your creation, you stay on Olympus where you belong. You don't use normal people to your purposes, you use mighty heroes. You don't choose nameless foreigners to worship you or dirty tradesmen to proclaim you, you choose reputable men and women whose reputations will bolster your own.

There is no sense of decorum, no sense of dignity, no sense of pomp or circumstance.

Or is there?

Shepherds are elevated to the status of royal messengers. Foreigners are invited to worship in the home of a monarch. An old couple's son will herald the arrival of a new King. A young peasant couple will bring that King into the world.

The voiceless have not just been given a voice. They have been given something to say: the Almighty is coming to the Earth to shake it from the ground up. Everything has been turned upside down.

This is cause for celebration.

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