One of the most charming and beautiful Christmas carols is undoubtedly “Angels From the Realms of Glory.” This beloved carol has been published in over 700 hymnbooks! Few, however, know the story of the man behind this great Christmas Hymn. 

Born in 1771, James Montgomery spent his childhood years in a Scottish group of Moravian Brethren. His parents were so heavily influenced by the testimony of Count Von Zinzendorf and the great Moravian missions work that they dedicated their own lives to gospel work.

When James was 8 years old, his parents entrusted him to fellow believers in the community and left for the West Indies. As young James waved farewell to his zealous parents, he would be seeing them for the last time. Just 4 years later, his parents passed away from illness on the mission field. 

Young Montgomery would spend the next 9 years in restless wonderings. No job seemed to suit him. His gifts in writing and poetry were not gaining any attention. He was frustrated and on the verge of giving up. It was here that the opportunity to work at Sheffield Register appeared. Montgomery spent several years working under the guidance of the editor there. However, a wealthy investor bought the paper and established James as the head of it.  Montgomery dove into his work and tackled many issues of his day. 

The biggest change of his life occurred in 1814; He became a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had been very interested in the faith and understood its importance, yet, it was here that he placed his faith in the Lord Jesus. His life changed dramatically! He began to use his gifts in poetry and writing to share God’s Word through Hymns. In total, Montgomery would pen over 400 hymns.

It is here that we turn Christmas Eve, 1816. Readers of The Iris (previously the Sheffield Register) opened the paper to find a Christmas poem entitled The Nativity. This poem was written by James Montgomery and became the cherished hymn, “Angels From the Realms of Glory.” He published it in his 1853 book, Original Hymns.

Truly the Lord used the influences, gifts, difficulties, circumstances, and Scripture to change his life forever. From this, God was able to reach many millions with mighty truths through song. With a God so mighty, our response ought to be, “come and worship, worship Christ…the King.

You can view the original stanzas as they were first printed here.

Angels From the Realms of Glory

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)

4. Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:(Refrain)