Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving and the last singing of the Gloria in Excelsis

Yesterday, during the divine service, I had the nagging awareness that this would be the last time that we would be singing the Gloria in Excelsis (Glory to God on high) until Christmas Eve. This is the song of the announcement of the birth of the Savior that the angels shared with the shepherds in the region of Bethlehem. The words of the angels begin with the pastor chanting: “Glory be to God on high.” The congregation completes the announcement, chanting: “And on earth peace, good will toward men. . . .” It is the glorious announcement that with the birth of the Prince of Peace, peace now resides upon the earth in accord with God’s good will toward men, the great love of God that moved Him to provide Jesus as the Savior of sinful mankind.

The season of Advent is penitential and preparatory for the advent/coming of the promised Savior. Thus, the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted during this season to help us remember what is missing apart from being Baptized into the Holy Communion of the Christ. He is the one who comes to restore what sin has stolen away from mankind.

The Church Year is designed to carry us through the promises of the Holy Scriptures, beginning with the Advent of Jesus and ending with His return at the Last Day. Thus Advent is a preparatory time, reminding us that Jesus was promised as the cure for sin and its consequences and came to the world in the fullness of time, born of the virgin in Bethlehem. He continues to come to His Church on Earth with the healing of forgiveness and the renewal of reconciliation into His Holy Communion through the Holy Supper. And He will come again at the Last Day to bring to completion all that He began in the garden with the promise to the first two needy sinners, as He comes to separate those who refused His grace from those whom the Holy Spirit through faith has gathered into the Holy Communion of the body of Christ.

Therefore, though I always feel a bit of a sting with the departure of the Gloria in Excelsis from the liturgy, I benefit from what it teaches me concerning my great need and God’s greater fulfillment of that need, not only for me, but for all of mankind. It moves me to never ending thanksgiving and it reminds me that this proclamation for all the world needs to be proclaimed today so that those for whom God has provided His peace may be brought into it through the working of the Holy Spirit in connection with the Word.

Advent is a wonderful time as we prepare for the joyous announcement of “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”

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By the way, yesterday’s sermon has been posted.

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