Angels From the Realms of Glory

Full Text

1 Angels from the realms of glory,
wing your flight o'er all the earth;
ye who sang creation's story
now proclaim Messiah's birth:

Come and worship, come and worship,
worship Christ, the newborn king.

2 Shepherds, in the field abiding,
watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
yonder shines the infant light: [Refrain]

3 Sages, leave your contemplations,
brighter visions beam afar;
seek the great Desire of nations;
ye have seen his natal star: [Refrain]

United Methodist Hymnal, 1989

Author: James Montgomery

Montgomery, James, son of John Montgomery, a Moravian minister, was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, Nov. 4, 1771. In 1776 he removed with his parents to the Moravian Settlement at Gracehill, near Ballymena, county of Antrim. Two years after he was sent to the Fulneck Seminary, Yorkshire. He left Fulneck in 1787, and entered a retail shop at Mirfield, near Wakefield. Soon tiring of that he entered upon a similar situation at Wath, near Rotherham, only to find it quite as unsuitable to his taste as the former. A journey to London, with the hope of finding a publisher for his youthful poems ended in failure; and in 1792 he was glad to leave Wath for Shefield to join Mr. Gales, an auctioneer, bookseller, and printer of the Sheffield Register newspap… Go to person page >


Scripture References:
st. 1-3 = Luke 2, Matt. 2
st. 4 = Joel 3:2, Phil. 2:10

A writer of many Christian hymns, James Montgomery (PHH 72) composed this Christmas and Epiphany text and published it on Christmas Eve, 1816, in the Sheffield Iris, a newspaper he edited. Montgomery based the text in part on the French carol "Angels We Have Heard on High" (347); it was sung to that tune for over fifty years. Entitling it "Good Tidings of Great Joy to All People," Montgomery republished the text with small alterations in his Christian Psalmist (1825).

Perhaps because he knew the psalms so well, Montgomery expresses a cosmic sense in this text: he reaches from Christ's incarnation to the final great day. The text successively incorporates all creatures–the angels (st. 1), the shepherds (st. 2), the wise men (st. 3), all nations (st. 4), and all people (st. 5)–in the call to “come and worship Christ, the newborn King!”

The text was originally in five stanzas, although many hymnals now delete the fifth stanza. Stanzas 1-3 are from Montgomery's text, which was inspired by the Christmas stories in Luke 2 and Matthew 2. Stanza 4 comes from another Montgomery carol inspired by Philippians 2. Stanza 5 is a doxology (not written by Montgomery) from the Salisbury Hymn Book (1857).

Liturgical Use:
Christmas Day worship service; during the Christmas season and Epiphany (not only for the Christmas story, but also for the hymn's obvious mission focus in stanza 4).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
Angels from the realms of glory. J. Montgomery. [Christmas.] This hymn, which ranks as one of the most popular of the author's compositions, first appeared in his Iris newspaper [Sheffield], Dec. 24, 1816, in 5 stanzas of 6 lines, and entitled "Nativity." In the 8th edition of Cotterill's Selection, 1819, it was repeated without alteration, and again in the 9th ed., 1820. On its republication by Montgomery in his Christian Psalmist, 1825, No. 487, the title was, "Good tidings of great joy to all people," and the following changes were introduced:—

stanza ii. line 2, “flock" to "flocks”.
stanza iv. line 2, “Waiting" to "Watching”.
stanza v. line 3, "repeals " to revokes”.

These changes (together with the new title) were retained in his Original Hymns, 1853, No. 239; and must be regarded as the authorised text. By many compilers the closing stanza:—

"Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doom'd for guilt to endless pains," &c.

has been, in some instances, omitted, and in others a doxology has been substituted. That given in A Hymn Book for the Services of the Church, &c, by the Rev. Isaac Gregory Smith, 1855, reads:—

"Lord of heaven, we adore Thee,
God the Father, God the Son,
God the Spirit, One in glory,
On the same eternal throne.
Lord of heaven, Three in One."

Another found in the Salisbury Hymn Book, 1857, and others, including the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Church Hymns and Thring's Collection is:—

"Saints and angels join in praising
Thee; the Father, Spirit, Son!
Evermore their voices raising
To the eternal Three in One.
Come ye, worship;
Worship Christ, the new-born King."

Of the first four stanzas a rendering into Latin:—“Angeli, sancta regione lucis," by the Rev. R. Bingham, appeared in his Hymnologia Christiana Latina, 1871, pp. 79-81.
The use of this hymn in various forms in English-speaking countries is extensive, abbreviations being the rule. Amongst American Hymnals, the Hymns of the Church, 1869, and the Baptist Praise Book, 1871, give the full revised and authorised text of 1825 and 1853.

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



Henry T. Smart (PHH 233) composed REGENT SQUARE for the Horatius Bonar (PHH 260) doxology "Glory be to God the Father." The tune was first published in the English Presbyterian Church's Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1867), of which Smart was music editor. Because the text editor of that hymna…

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