Advent hymn-reflection: “Angels from the Realms of Glory”

Zac HicksUncategorizedLeave a Comment

(there are other great verses…these are the ones we’re using)

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.

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

Shepherds, in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant light:

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

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

“Angels from the Realms of Glory” is our church’s song of the month for December.  We’ve re-set it to a pretty ambitious new tune (though the standard tune, “Regent Square,” is beautiful, too) that we’ll debut on our 2011 album of old hymns to new music, Lord-willing.  The text is fantastic.  Its author, James Montgomery (1771-1854), was a devout Moravian Christian who spent much of his life working as a writer and editor with local English newspapers.  His political writing was exceptionally controversial such that he was thrown in jail for a time.  Nevertheless, even in jail, he was a poet, and “Angels from the Realms of Glory” is certainly one of the crowing achievements of his hymnody.  The hymn begins with a “zoomed out” perspective on the first Advent of Jesus, with the angels who, having witnessed the Creation, now get to proclaim Messiah’s birth.  Verses 2 and 3 address the immediate story of Christ’s birth, but verse 4 seems to proclaim the double-meaning behind the Advent season (namely, Christ’s first and second comings):

Saints before the altar bending
Watching long in hope and fear
Suddenly the Lord descending
In His temple shall appear.

This is ultimately not a picture of Jesus’ first coming recorded in the Gospels but His second recorded in Revelation.  Powerful!


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