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GLORIA in Excelsis Deo!

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! Tonight we celebrate the reason Christians can have so much JOY!

Think about that night in Bethlehem.

Think about Mary and Joseph in the stable with a baby only a few minutes old.

Think about the shepherds.

But, do yourself a favor for the next few minutes and try to imagine those angels.

Lue 2:8-14

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.

At first, there was only one angel bringing the amazing message to the shepherds that the long-awaited Messiah had been born. Then an entire choir of angels joined that first angel. The Bible says they were "praising God and saying." In my mind, that most certainly means they were singing. No doubt at the top of their lungs, and no doubt with exuberant joy.

Recently I was touring Christ Episcopal Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It is significant historically because it was founded in 1828, and the tower and nave were constructed between 1839 and 1843. "Nave" is not a word used a lot in Baptist churches, but it refers to the main portion of the building, the part where the congregation gathers. This church is even more meaningful in Vicksburg because the pastor serving during the Civil War chose to conduct services every day during the 47 days in 1863 when Vicksburg was under siege.

This particular stained glass window was not in the church at the time of the siege but was installed as a memorial to Annie Lake Green who died in 1892. It caught my eye for a number of reasons. The angel is holding a scroll with music notes and a title of "Gloria." My mind immediately went back to the dozens of word charts I devised during my days as an elementary teacher. Also, there were several times when a performance drew near, and the students still didn't have all the lyrics memorized. I created cue cards to get us through the rough parts.

Do I think for one minute that the "multitude of the heavenly host" showed up without knowing the words they were about to sing? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, the person who designed this window gives the impression that the words and notes they sang on that first Christmas Eve needed to be written down and preserved.

The King James Version of the Bible translates their words as "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."

Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi translated the words into Latin -- "Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest) and set them to a magnificent piece of music for large choir and orchestra.

Gift yourself 2 minutes and 40 seconds to absorb this beautiful composition. Turn the volume up.

Then, if you have just 4 minutes and 45 seconds more, take in the worshipful sound of orchestra, choir, and Andrea Bocelli singing "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Oh, how I love powerful music!

Have a wonderful time with the people you love. Laugh a lot. Let them see your joy.

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