Have you ever been caught by surprise while singing a hymn? Today in church we were singing Angels From the Realms of Glory and when we hit the fourth verse I was completely caught off guard by the thematic shift. These are moments when I realize anew why I love hymns. Some authors just got it–they got the bigger picture, and are still teaching us centuries later.
Montgomery starts the song off like any good Advent hymn, focusing on the birth of Christ:
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:
Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.
*And here’s the shift–Christ is born, but there’s a far larger drama playing out. His birth was trumpeted by angels, marveled at by shepherds, and sought after by sages. But though He came, lived, died, and rose again, the saints are still waiting for the final victory. This is the great expectation of Advent:
Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.
Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.
Though an Infant now we view Him,
He shall fill His Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to Him;
Every knee shall then bow down:
All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising
To th’eternal Three in One.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.