I was a member our high school chorus. I have few clear memories of that experience. I know we had a lot of fun. And I know many days our leader, Mrs. Hill, didn’t take kindly to our fun if it wasn’t purely an expression of our love for music, which I assure you many days it was not.
Mrs. Hill took this class seriously. I have this memory of a Christmas song we were practicing for what I imagine was an upcoming performance. The song was Angels We Have Heard on High. An old favorite. Many years passed after this class before I heard that song and didn’t think of Mrs. Hill helping us perfect the pronunciation of “excelsis deo”. Over and over she had us repeating the words: egg shells. I can still hear her directions as she instructed us to watch her lips, how they deliberately formed those two words: egg shells. And then finally, when we had earned her trust that we would sing those words just as we had been saying them, and that our lips would give them just the right shape, she allowed us to sing out -in egg shells sis deo.
I believe the Latin translation for that is God really likes eggs.
Over the years I have matured in my faith and understanding of the Christmas story. Although Mrs. Hill still flashes through my mind from time to time when I hear that old carol, I am more likely to picture shepherds hanging out in a field on a cold night minding their sheep. I imagine the looks on their faces when and angel appeared out of nowhere to tell them about the birth of Christ. And before they had finished adding automated external defibrillators to their list of demands to be used in future labor negotiations, a whole host of angels appeared and began praising God:
Glory to God in the highest heaven.
I do wonder if they were singing their praises. And if so, were egg shells involved.
The story says that after the angels left, the shepherds headed for Bethlehem to see what they had been told about. As someone who enjoys the benefit of a long walk and the opportunity it gives you to think about life, I wonder what a walk would be like after you have just shared a conversation with an angel. Did the shepherds talk to one another, or did they walk along in a state of shock until they encountered the manger scene. That’s one walk I would have like to have been on.
I’ll take a few long walks this Christmas season. I’ll try to imagine what was going through the minds of the shepherds. I’ll cue up my favorite renditions of Angels We Have Heard on High on my iPod. And when I get funny looks from passers-by, I’ll smile in confidence that my lips are forming those two words just right- excelsis deo.