The shepherds were “sore afraid,” which means they were completely and totally terrified fearing for their very lives. Here they were half-asleep watching sheep (some of which would eventually be slaughtered in Passover celebrations and temple sacrifices) and an angel of the Lord appeared to them with “news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
It is highly significant that the angels appeared to shepherds watching sacrificial sheep because 33 years later this baby would be sacrificed for us as the Lamb of God. This occasion was so significant that the Angelic Choir then appeared singing a song that has echoed down through the ages and has been sung nearly every Sunday by liturgical churches for almost two millenia:
“Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.”
This was the second appearance of the Angelic Choir in Scripture. The first was immediately after God created the earth. The angels were so filled with joy at what God had done that “the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7) In their first appearance, they celebrated God’s creative work. In their second appearance, they celebrated and proclaimed God’s redemptive work accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself reveals through the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation that the Saints and Angels will be singing eternally. What a thrill it is to join the angels and sing this Eternal Song.
Here is Handel’s version of the angel’s song that Christmas night.
Here is a version by Bach from his Christmas Oratorio showing his original score.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and happy and joyous singing in the New Year!