“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”
(Luke 2:10-14 KJV)
Have you ever had a moment in your life when everything changed? For most of us, these moments are marked by big life events: getting married, going on a missions trip, getting a new job, moving locations, having a baby, etc. Often our perspectives are changed, our priorities are shifted, and our positions adjusted. But before everything changes by these events occurring, we receive news about what is coming: a note, an email, a text, a conversation, a carrier pigeon, a news anchor announcement… or in the case of this verse: a visit from angels.
When I asked you to think of a moment when everything changed, you were probably like me and thought of a moment or event that drastically altered the course of your life. I instantly thought of my missions trip to Wales and of God inviting me through opportunities and the confirmation of trusted leaders urging me to pursue God’s ministry call instead of an acting career, I thought of losing one of my nieces as a teenager and how that pain of loss deeply impacted my life, and I thought of the joy of marrying my best friend. You too might have thought of similar life-changing, heart-breaking, exhilarating, terrifying, wonderful moments in your life… but did it change everything?
In this sermon of the angels, they were tasked with not only bringing life-changing news to shepherds, but bringing eternity changing news to the world. News that literally changed everything… news that can only be described as glorious.
G – God. “Glory to God…”
For the world to have come into existence, there had to be One who is pre-existent. For every painting there is an artist, for every effect there is a cause; God is the recipient of all praise honor and glory (Rev. 7:12) because He is the one in whom all things were made. (Col 1:16)
Notice in the angel’s Christmas sermon, God is the one receiving GLORY. Glory originates with God just as everything ultimately exists because of God. Without Him, there is nothing. Even for there to be the concept of nothing, God had to exist to bring about our ability to conceptualize nothingness. He is the author of life, who has never misplaced a word. The glory that is due to Him is not because of something He had to do, but simply because of who He is.
L – Location. “…In the highest…”
Once I was teaching a class to a children’s ministry and asked the kids, “Where is God?” About 80% of them, without hesitation, pointed up. I jokingly asked, “Is He on the ceiling??” They shook their heads incredulously at my lack of biblical understanding… “No silly, He is in the sky!” one precocious child answered. Amazed, I asked how He got up there? Certainly a future scholar, the child answered in earnest, “He went up Jacob’s ladder!”
Funny as this story may be, I personally have heard of God looking down from the clouds for many years. “The earth is His footstool” “The Father up above is looking down in love” (Only one of those is a Bible verse… ) It is a difficult idea to wrap our minds around that God, though He reigns in the highest heavens, is also one breath away in the veiled spiritual world that will remain a mystery until we meet Him. God’s omnipresence is one way for us to begin to conceptualize His ability to be high above us and yet be with us. His heavenly kingdom is tangible, yet invisible.
Glory is given to our Father, who is in heaven.
O – Objective. “…on earth peace,…”
The previous statement, that God was in the highest heaven, is true… but is it complete? In this Christmas sermon of the angels, the one repeated by Linus in the Peanuts cartoon, the angels are announcing the incredible news of a baby born in Bethlehem.
But this baby is not ordinary, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing. God is indeed in heaven and at the moment of Jesus’ birth, God was breathing the air He created. Bound in human form, subject to the laws of nature He instituted, Jesus was born. And He was born with an objective: peace.
In 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a powerful poem¹ contemplating the horrors of the Civil War and reflecting upon the meaning of Christmas, this excerpt may be familiar to you and it beautifully captures the objective of Christ:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
- “For hate is strong,
- And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep”
There is no peace apart from God. God is not dead, nor doth He sleep, He actively provided a solution for suffering, and His name is Jesus.
Finally, peace had come to earth and His objective would not be complete for another three decades. Glory to God for the peace that He came to give freely!
R – Redemption. “…good will…”
I love Christmas! I love all of the lights and holiday festivities, the cocoa and the snowmen, the church bells and the holiday movies! What I don’t love is the consumerism that I have bought into (pardon the unintentional pun). Good will is equated with the amount of money I have spent on the people in my life and even… myself!
Don’t mishear me, I’m not railing against presents, I’m not getting on the bandwagon of “Christmas is pagan and evil” (Though Jesus was most-likely not born in December…).
However, I am saying that the good will, the kindness to be shown at this season should ultimately draw us back to the heart of the real Christmas story.
Christmas is about redemption.
God has shown His love in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Don’t forget that the mission of the baby in the manger, God in human flesh, the incarnation of divinity, was to die so that we may have peace.
He lived a perfect life, died, and rose again to demonstrate His good will toward us. To those who would say that God is unreasonable and unfair, I would agree that there is no reason for Him to extend goodness and kindness to us; there is no reason, except for His goodness and His glory. I would agree that it’s not fair for God to limit Himself and be born in humility and killed by His own creatures, to offer forgiveness to undeserving rebels; but God didn’t come for a reasonable response, He didn’t come to experience glory, He came for redemption, He came for forgiveness, He came for good will, He came for peace, He came for you.
Y – You. “…toward men…”
We started with the Author of glory and we conclude with the recipient of His glorious grace. God wrote a letter of love to His children. The CSB translates verse 14 as “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to people He favors.” He favors His people and demonstrated this love, this favor, in the good news of Christ. Jew or Greek, white or black, male or female, it doesn’t matter. God is not racist or sexist, the good news of heaven is free to anyone who will believe.
What do you think about the glory of God? Is it a disconnected philosophical/theological construct? Or is it news that changes everything?
This Christmas, be amazed by the wonder of this eternity changing news.
Live in light of the gospel. Stand in awe of the God’s GLORY.
- Calhoun, Charles (2004). Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 223–224.