Friday, December 16, 2016

Examining Christmas Traditions #1: Do Angels Sing?

It's the Christmas season and the lights are up inside homes and all over the neighborhood. Children are having photos with Santa and moms and dads are hurriedly finishing their shopping lists. Kids at school are doing Christmas crafts with paint and Popsicle sticks and teachers are counting the days until Christmas vacation. Churches have cookie swaps and families enjoy the annual classics, "It's A Charlie Brown Christmas", "Frosty The Snowman", and "It's A Wonderful Life". In the south where it is warmer and more rural, many places host a live Nativity, where animals roam in an enclosure and a manger is set up with shepherds, Joseph, Mary, and a baby (or a doll) for the enjoyment and interest of the locals. These are some of our annual traditions here in America.

There are traditions regarding the Christmas story within the faith, also. We have Christmas carols with lyrics that say that angels sing, set up nativity scenes with Wise Men, erect Christmas trees, and more.

Do these traditions have any bearing from scripture? If not should we care? If not, should we abandon them? Accept them? Are we disrespecting Christ by perpetuating them? Or not?
In this essay from Answers In Genesis, "Hark! The Herald Angels Said?", the author wrote,
The idea of angels singing on the night of Christ’s birth has become so common that many are surprised to learn that the Bible does not unequivocally state this. This example provides a good opportunity to discuss traditions. In and of themselves, traditions are not wrong, but they must be based on and consistent with Scripture. If they contradict Scripture, then they must be rejected. ...
One of the points of this series on misconceptions is to lead us all to look closely at what the Bible teaches. Far too often traditions have been the basis of our thinking, and we end up believing things that are not found in Scripture. We have heard and sung about angels singing on that night so often that many do not bother to look closely at the text.
Looking at the specific issue of whether angels sing, we do know there are a great many Christmas carols saying they do. However, scripture never indicates once that the angels sing. They shout, proclaim, and praise, but not sing. However, given the various contexts in which they are rejoicing, such as on the night Jesus was born, it is possible they they sang, also.

Answers In Genesis explains things from their view:
As we wrap up this Christmas article (pun intended), you are probably wondering if the angels did sing to the shepherds. In light of the fact that there is a strong connection between praising and singing in the Bible, and since angels, in all likelihood, are capable of singing, there exists biblical support for the tradition of singing angels found in the Christmas hymns.
GotQuestions thinks they do. Robin Schumacher thinks they do. John MacArthur thinks they do. J. Vernon McGee doesn't think so. Phillip Holmes at Desiring God doesn't think so either.

Since scripture doesn't say one way or the other if angels sing, we are not being unscriptural by singing carols that say they do. It's a tradition that isn't harmful to a person's faith if they want to believe angels sing. The point of the season is to focus on Jesus, His incarnation, and respond with song, praise, and worship.

AiG finishes this way:
In any case, when we think about God’s amazing gift of a Savior to mankind on that night, we should glorify and praise God, whether in spoken word or in song, just as the shepherds did on that incredible night after they had seen the newborn King.


6 comments :

  1. Just a short comment. In JOB 38 :7 > God states that the Angles sang together at Creation. Then again, in Rev. dont the Angles sing HOLY HOLY HOLY is the Lamb of God?

    Ron G. MARANATHA! Enjoy your Blog and postings,

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Hi Ron G! Thanks for reading and your scriptural comment. Both those notions are dealt with in the essays I'd posted. Basically, the word in Job 38:7 means 'to give a ringing cry' which is kind of like singing but not really. In Rev 4 the creatures (probably angels but not described as such) say holy holy holy etc. The Greek word means to say, shout, speak, etc. The essays explain it more. :)

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  2. I once heard a minister say there will be no singing in Heaven. Your article casts some light on that thought. Good to ponder...

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    1. This article is about angels singing or not singing, not about humans singing or not singing. Angels and people are different created beings. The Bible has several references to people singing in heaven. Rev 5:9 shows the elders singing with harps. Rev 14:3 shows the 144,000 singing before the throne, with harps.

      In addition to the verses, I believe it is highly likely we human believers will sing in heaven. God invented praise music, hymns, and songs for us to express our worship of Him and to Him while on earth (Eph 5:19) and it's more than likely we will continue to do so in heaven. I say 'more than likely' because if He said to sing of Him here with our fleshly bodies, once there, we can sing to Him without the blot of sin staining our praise. We see Zephaniah 3:9.

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    2. Very interesting! I have never questioned whether angels sing. I assumed they did because even the rocks cry out to God. I have read scripture of angels praising God, but that could be talking or shouting. I did find in Isaiah 44:23 "Sing for joy you heavens for the Lord has done this." Since angels reside in the heavens they could be included with the heavens, right?

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    3. Sure. The essay wasn't to make a case for whether angels sing or don't sing. The point was to look beyond the traditions we accept toward what scripture actually says.

      In this particular case on this page, scripture doesn't say that angels sing. It doesn't say they don't sing, either.

      As for the verse in Isaiah, Jamieson Fausset Brown Commentary explains the symbolic language here

      Call to inanimate nature to praise God; for it also shall share in the coming deliverance from "the bondage of corruption" (Rom 8:20, 21).

      In context, the verse is talking about the redemption of national Israel, so Isaiah is urging all of creation to rejoice.

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