People have asked me often lately for the meaning behind my Christmas song “Born to Die.” It actually begins with an old hymn that I discovered a few years ago called “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” If you’ve heard it, it paints a stunning picture of the very first Christmas morning. It’s an image of the angels of God – the very same heavenly hosts who once “winged their flight o’er the earth” singing the marvelous story of the first creation at the beginning of time – this time filling the shepards’ sky singing a very different creation story – the birth of the Christ. I’m not sure why, but reading the lyrics to this hymn was the first glimpse I ever caught into the heavenly vision of angels actually singing the stories and the history of God. It was a stunning thought to me – the idea that perhaps the angels of heaven have been and continue singing – not just telling, but singing – the stories of God. And it’s as if the angels have no choice but to sing. It’s as if the awe and wonder at the glory of their God spontaneously pours from their souls as a chorus like no other. I can only liken it to the barely audible sigh at the first glimpse of a sunrise, or some other wonderous thing, that rises from our hearts and over our lips before we can stop it. That’s how I picture the birth of the songs of the angels…but instead of a quiet amazement, the angelic response pours out into a perfect chorus of ten thousand tongues in spontaneous response to the glorious work of their God. For all of eternity. What a beautiful picture.
And then I imagine those very same angels contemplating the idea that that very same God would somehow choose to clothe Himself in humanity, in flesh, that first Christmas morning. And not only flesh, but the flesh of an infant, helpless and vulnerable, willing and planning to ultimately become the sacrifice for all sin on the cross. Why? Of all the ways to save mankind, why this? Who knows if the angels contemplated such things, but if they did, the weight and conflict of emotion, I can only imagine, would be overwhelming. Hard as it is from our own earthly perspective to understand the reality of what God did in becoming flesh, I imagine it infinitely more difficult from the perspective of heaven. And so that is what “Born to Die” is…a Christmas song from the perspective of heaven, best as I can imagine it. God, in all his glory, ruling the heavens for all eternity, choosing to insert Himself into time, into flesh, to become a living sacrifice for humanity…heartbreaking and heroic…baffling but so beautiful.