Glory To God In The Highest

December 17, 2013
by Pat Bell

Perhaps you are familiar with the expression "ear worm". Most of us have experienced an annoying snatch of song that sticks in our memory and plays over and over inside our heads.

The refrain from the Christmas hymn Angels we have heard on high is an ear worm for me. You probably know it: "Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ria in excelsis Deo!" which is Latin for "Glory to God in the highest". This year for Advent, I decided to research the Bible passage on which the song is based, since "Gloria" has haunted me since 1961.

Luke 2:8-11,13-14 – And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests." (NIV)

E. W. Bullinger's notes on Greek and Hebrew word meanings and grammar published in The Companion Bible (1922) provide an intriguing comment on the vocabulary and word order for the original Greek of Luke 2:14. Bullinger says that the great company of the heavenly army first praised God with "Glory in the Highest [heaven] [be] to God," then added, "Glory upon earth springing from God. Peace from God among [favoured] men".

The Pat Bell paraphrase based on Bullinger has become: A great company of the heavenly army were saying as one, with emphatic, barely-constrained glee, "Praise God! His glory is in heaven, and now, the gift of Messiah for all people — God's heaven-sent, redemptive glory and God's peace — has come to earth from the Father to live among His favoured creation, human beings."

Have you ever wondered, "What's the big deal? Why a spectacular sound and light performance in the night sky for some scruffy shepherds? Why did an angel and then a great company of the heavenly army announce the birth of a baby boy in Bethlehem?" I think that they were ecstatic to call attention to the Best News Ever: "Messiah! God's honour, loving authority, and weighty influence are embodied in this newborn! God's shalom, God's way of being complete and safe has come to all people!"

Does the form and content of the angels' Nativity Extravaganza haunt you, too?

Prayer: Father, we sing with awed gusto, "Glo-o-oria in excelsis Deo, Glo-o-oria in excelsis Deo!" In the powerful name of Christ Jesus our Lord, we ask, please let us "get" the Best News Ever. May hope expressed as our Saviour be born anew, magnificent to live in our hearts this Christmas and through the coming years. Amen.

About the author:

Pat Bell <llebpat@gmail.com>
Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    A good word Pat.


    Thank you for the good research, Pat.


    Amen! Christmas blessings to you and yours.


    From earworm to inspiring devotional! Keep up the good writing Pat.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours.
    Peace and Blessings.


    Dear Mary Jane,
    Lovely and touching story for Christmas.
    Happy Christmas!
    Blessings.


    The sad part is that we no longer hear these glorious carols ringing through our Malls due to what is termed “political correctness”, and for many the words have become so familiar they have lost the awesome meaning they used to convey.


    Wonderfully written Pat. I do thank you for this blessing and I echo your prayer. May God continue to bless you abundantly with inspiration and insights to share with us and May He touch your heart in a new way on this anniversary of His birth. Seek thus and you will find dear Pat.


    Thank you!!
    Powerful words. Electrifying.
    To you Pat, MERRY CHRISTMAS. and May FATHER rain down blessings of health, happiness with prosperity, always…until HE takes you by the hand when HE lifts you home.
    AMEN & AMEN
    (Texas USA)


    What a wonderful way to start my day! Thank you Pat. In fact, when you paraphrased the ‘favoured men’ bit it’s the first time I thought that He meant all people. I’ve always thought it meant only those who love Him and obey His Word! Now it seems obvious that it means among all people (although not all will receive and partake of His gifts). Blessings on your day today, and on all your days of preparation leading up to our celebration of this amazing and wonderful event, in the world, and in our own personal lives. God bless.


    Dear Pat,
    Thank you for your powerful insight to “Glory to God in the Highest.” I can envision a band of angels singing that beautiful praise song announcing our Saviour’s birth. Thanks for writing about it. Have a blessed, happy and joyful Christmas.


    Hi Pat:
    Another marvelous devotional.
    Have a wonderful Christmas and a pleasant and well New Year.
    Thank you for your many lovely and wise words of wisdom.

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