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Last Christmas at Museum of the Bible, our theme was “Follow the Star,” a reference to the magi in the Gospel of Matthew who followed the star as they searched for the newborn king. This year, we turned to the angelic choir and their song of praise to God at the announcement of Jesus’s birth for our theme: Gloria. Gloria in altissimis Deo sing the angels in the Latin Vulgate. It is the older Latin translation of this song that most know today, in which they sing, Gloria in excelsis Deo. Both translations have the same meaning, “Glory to God in the highest.” Our theme, Gloria, is inspired by this song of praise as we celebrate the sounds of Christmas with performances by local and national choirs, a host of Christmas concerts, and a special exhibit on the medieval bells that once tolled in the Church of the Nativity.

Our second annual Community Angel program reflects this year’s theme as well. This program invites local churches to decorate an angel sculpture that is then displayed at the museum. This year, three churches were each given a different Christmas carol to inspire their creativity. Working with professional artists Kate Sinclair and Josie Ziemski, the churches brought their visions to life. Below are the stories behind each angel.

Holy Trinity Church

The Holy Trinity Church was given the following version of Isaac Watts’s famous carol, “Joy to the World.”

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev'ry heart prepare him room
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders of his love

For Holy Trinity Church’s congregation, the words of the carol embody their celebration of the season, their connection to nature, and a display of revelry in the kingdom of God. Each of these is captured in the scene painted on the angel. The scene takes place outside in a bucolic setting complete with a giant Christmas tree.

Figure 1: The front of the angel by Holy Trinity Church. Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

In front of the tree sits a long table, its bench seats filled with congregants breaking bread in merriment and celebration. Above the rolling hills is a bright blue sky with puffy white clouds and wide rays of sunlight beaming through. Uniting the heavens above and the earth below is Holy Trinity Church. One of the sunbeams shines through its iconic front window, which features a cross with its own beams of light emanating from its center that illuminate the church inside. The song lyrics are written on the wings of the angel, bringing heaven and nature together to sing.

Figure 2: The wings of the Holy Trinity Church's angel with lyrics from "Joy to the World." Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

Chinese Christian Church of Germantown

“Away in a Manger” was given to the Chinese Christian Church of Germantown for their inspiration.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love you, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky,
And stay by my side until morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care,
And take us to heaven to live with You there.

The church chose to play the carol for a few of the congregation’s children and then asked them to draw pictures of what the carol meant to them. Protection was the theme that emerged from those drawings—not just the protection given by Jesus, but also the children’s protection of baby Jesus in return, depicting themselves as his guardian angels.

Figure 3: The front of the angel by the Chinese Christian Church of Germantown. Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

Artist Kate Sinclair decided to represent this protective spirit by placing joyous, armored angels around the base of the angel statue. The angels are dancing, evoking the music of the carol and the lively Christmas celebrations of the Chinese Christian Church of Germantown. Around the angels are lilies that grow up the body of the angel statue, eventually fading into an array of golden stars.

Figure 4: Detail of the lilies and the guardian angels. Note the angels are fletched with hearts instead of feathers. Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

The angel is painted crimson red, a color associated with celebration and good luck in Chinese culture and a traditional Christmas color in the West. Hearts, crosses, and stars from the children’s drawings are sprinkled throughout the composition, reflecting the ethereal safety and protection petitioned for in the carol.

Figure 5: Detail of the crimson red and golden stars adorning the top of the angel from the Chinese Christian Church of Germantown. Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

Arlington Community Church

The hauntingly beautiful “O Holy Night” was given to Arlington Community Church.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand;
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;


Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise his Holy name.

Christ is the Lord, then ever, ever praise we!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!

Glory, passion, and love were the three central concepts the congregation at Arlington Community Church identified from their contemplation of the famous carol. In the center of the scene is Christ in glory.

Figure 6: Detail of the center of the angel from Arlington Community Church showing Jesus in glory. Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

The centrality of Jesus not only reflects the focus of the carol but also Jesus’s centrality to the congregation. Rays of white light emanate from Jesus, changing as they spread into shades of increasingly darker red and finally into deep, dark blues. Encircling the bottom of the angel are parishioners, most on their knees, holding candles. Their clothing shows the diversity of the congregation’s members, while the candles signify the candlelight vigil held each Christmas Eve at Arlington Community Church.

Figure 7: Detail of the base of the angel, with the parishioners of Arlington Community Church holding candles in silent vigil. Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

On the angel’s right arm is the skyline of Bethlehem, and on the left, Arlington’s skyline. Together, they unite the night divine and the modern-day church. The sheet music for “O Holy Night” wrapped around the angel ties the composition together. As the church’s pastor, John Eckrote, writes, “Today, Arlington Community Church is a light in the community, where chains are broken, oppressions cease, and sweet hymns of grateful chorus are raised. Because of Jesus—all because of Jesus—this church is a night divine.”

Figure 8: The front of the angel from Arlington Community Church. Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

Together, these three angels join in the museum’s celebration of the sounds of Christmas, the Gloria proclaimed by the angelic choir.

Figure 9: The three angels on display on Floor 5 at Museum of the Bible. Image © Museum of the Bible, 2022. All rights reserved.

We hope you’ll visit the museum this season and join in the celebration.

By Jared Wolfe, Editorial Manager

10 min read