December 16, 2022

Christmas and Advent Hymns and their Story

“Angels from the Realms of Glory”

James Montgomery [1771-1854], the author, published a weekly newspaper in Shefflied, England called “The Iris”. This hymn was first published on Christmas Eve in 1816, as part of a five-stanza poem entitled “Nativity”. Though there was, at times, tremendous opposition to the parisioners singing anything but the Psalms in worship, eventually Montgomery won the day, and the congregation began to sing hymns and carols in order to praise the Lord. One of the first hymns to be sung by the Congregation that year, at Christmas, was “Angels from the Realms of Glory”.
Originally titled “Good Tidings of great Joy to All People”, minor changes were made to the tune, and the lyrics, and history shows us that it has become a much loved hymn ever since.
Montgomery put an inscription on the first page; not his name, not a date: it was this: “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” It was also found, years later, in some of his notes concerning this hymn, the following notation about this work: “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” [Matthew 2:2].
It seems, all Montgomery wanted for the life of this hymn, was to lead the people of God to “Come and Worship”, and sing about the Messiah’s birth. What a joyous intention that came to be! When you sing, or read the words, it seems that the author has basically written out a Christmas pageant before our very eyes, as we travel throughout this hymn. As he recorded for us – “All creation, join in praising God the Father, Spirit, Son.”

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.

LSB 367

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