A “mondegreen” is a misunderstood word or phrase usually because it’s in a song lyric that is misunderstood. In Christmas carols, many mondegreens come from the fact that the Old English lyrics are sometimes up to 200 years old and simply aren’t the way Americans talk today. One of my favorite mondegreens comes from I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day where people say “the bell freeze up all Christians dumb” instead of “the belfries of all Christendom”!
If this happens to 200-year-old songs written in English, can you imagine what happens to a song that is 1700 years old and was originally written in Latin?! I’m talking about the chorus from Angels We Have Heard On High which simply says, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.”
That Latin phrase means Glory to God in the highest! The idea is that our praise of God is both excellent and increasing in its level of adoration. The Latin phrase is shorthand for a doxology that is traced back to 300 AD.
The angels aren’t the subject of this carol, but the focal point is to Whom their song is being raised—“Come to Bethlehem and see Him Whose birth the angels sing; come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King.”
The idea of gloria in excelsis is to keep making our praise bigger and more magnificent. We are to MAGNIFY what God has done for us through the advent of Jesus.
In Hebrew, the word gadal is usually translated as “magnify” or “glorify” in English, and it means something that is growing and becoming more powerful. David uses gadal as he not only praises God from deep within his soul but encourages others to join in his song (Psalm 34:1-3).
In Greek, the word megalynō is also translated “magnify,” and means to make something great, make it obvious, declare it to be great, celebrate it. Mary’s song called The Magnificat begins with this word (Luke 1:46).
Just like a magnifying glass doesn’t make an object bigger, it just helps us see it better. So, too, our praise and adoration don’t make God bigger, it just helps others see Him better.
So I have a question to ask you—which I’ve already been asking myself—
Give unto the Lord the glory due His name…. (Psalm 29)
Verses 3-9 try to capture God’s power—
How do I give this God the glory due His name? How can my voice of praise even be heard above the voice of His majestic voice?
How? By simply worshiping the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
That means I come into His presence in the holiness of Christ—I remain clothed in His righteousness—then I can stand in God’s presence and join my voice with the voices of the mighty ones (v.1), with all His people (v. 11).
And He hears me.
And the glory due His name that comes from my lips causes all the creatures in His temple to exclaim, “Glory!” (v. 9)
I can give God all the glory due His majestic name by simply realizing that I am only in His presence because He wants me there, and has made the way possible for me to be there through His Son Jesus.