Through the holy days beginning with Christmas I’m doing a bit of a series on the four originalChristmas carols from the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel. At Christmas Masses I preached on the Canticle of Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father who has given us an incredible song that has become the centerpiece of the Church’s morning prayer since the first centuries. The Solemnity of Mary will match the Canticle of Mary, and the Canticle of Simeon is a nice fit for Epiphany.
The other original Christmas carol was sung by angels around Bethlehem. Surely this was a cosmic event, with every spiritual being who may happen to populate the universe singing out among the stars! But that’s just speculation, because Luke only identifies one audience: the shepherds around Bethlehem.
The other three original Christmas carols are prayed daily in the Liturgy of the Hours, but this song of the angels is prayed at Mass on most solemnities and feasts. We call it the ‘Gloria’ and it amplifies and elaborates on the simple song Luke relates: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”
Compared to the three other texts, this is simple enough; two short phrases. The angels start the same place Zechariah did, the same place Mary will, with praise of God. The first reaction the Incarnation is praise, of course! Praise is the heart of worship, the acknowledgment that God is amazing.
Why does that matter? Why praise God? Is He insecure? Does He get down on himself and need to be encouraged? Will He be nicer to us if we butter Him up?