December, 2019 – Angels We Have Heard – on “Low”

December, 2019 – Angels We Have Heard – on “Low”

Christmas was a wonderful time while growing up.  Because we lived deep in the country in Maine – actually, back woods-Maine, we did all those Norman Rockwell traditions.  Daddy would go off into the woods to cut down the perfect Christmas tree for the family – and if it wasn’t quite perfect, he would cut a couple of limbs off another tree, bring them home with him, bore holes into the tree he had cut for us and graft the extra limbs into those openings.  No doubt about it.  We always had the perfect tree!  We all had our favorite ornament to place on the tree; the windows were lit up with colorful lights – and at times in our late 19th century New England Colonial home with its old windows, the scant heat from the candles would clear the frost in little round circles on each pane.

We had the pageant at church which was always a source of stress especially for the children participating, still and all, yet delightful – and everyone wished everyone else a hearty ‘Merry Christmas’.  When my three siblings and I were very little, we so eagerly anticipated Santa’s arrival listening for the rein deer hooves on our roof.  Then there were the presents on Christmas morning, and of course the big turkey and all the fixings – a season, and a day of pure joy for me.

As I got older, I came to realize that not everyone got the Christmas experience that I did.  Teaching in an inner-city school in Providence, RI was my first real eye-opener!  But, for the sake of this writing I want to focus on another aspect of some who never got to enjoy the season as I did – the homeless at a Rescue Mission in Providence.

Part of my volunteering/ministering at the mission was to spend a half hour (from 4:30 – 5:00p) leading worship songs with as many as 80 or 90 homeless people.  They had their favorites – ‘This is the Day of Elijah’, ‘As the Deer’, ‘Open the Eyes of My Heart’, and many more, but as soon as the Thanksgiving holiday had passed, we focused on Christmas music.  These precious folks always had sheets with the songs’ words on them, but there was one where they didn’t need to look at the sheet, for the chorus anyway – and it wasn’t because it was mostly only one word!   They loved ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’.

The ladies always sat in the back of the little chapel and since three-fourths of our ‘guests’ (homeless folks) were men – and they filled most of the chapel, my heart burst with the ‘surprise of joy’ the first time I heard the men on the ‘gloria’s’.  (Gloria, in excelsis Deo – Gloria, in excelsis Deo!)  I gasped as I heard booming, thundering voices let loose – singing from the bottom of their hearts, from their diaphragms – with all the gusto you could imagine on glo——————-ri-a over and over.  As I looked at these faces appearing much older than their chronological age from years of alcohol and drug abuse along with mental and emotional anguishes  – most of them having been in prison – I looked through the tears that were streaming from my eyes down my face to their heads, thrown back with closed eyes, lifting their voices on perfect pitch as I had never heard the song before.

It was if I were no longer thinking of ‘angels on high’ but angels, for sure, on ‘low’ – here on earth.  I can still hear those voices and thinking ‘I’m not sure I have ever heard music any more beautiful in my life’!  They used to refer to me as their ‘angel’ – but for sure they became transformed the times they lifted their voices on this beautiful old Christmas carol, and became my angels!  Truly – Glory in excelsis Deo!  Glory to God in the Highest!  Thank You, for sending us God-incarnate – Emmanuel, God with us – JESUS!