The Angels’ Alleluia
December 24, 2013 | Brian Bill
Luke 2:8 says: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” While we tend to romanticize the shepherds in our cards and carols, they made up the lowest class of people, coming in just ahead of the lepers. They were not trusted as witnesses in court because they were known as liars and thieves. Living out in the fields away from society made them outcasts. Most of them had foul mouths and were ready to fight at the drop of a hat. Kind of sounds like me in my high school days.
At Christmas we remember that Christ came to the marginalized, the hurting, the discouraged, the outcasts, the heavy-hearted, and the stressed-out, to those embroiled in conflict and stuck in relational ruptures.
Verse 9 says, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” An “Angel of the Lord” literally refers to a messenger “from the face of God.” In the midst of the mundane, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a huge display of glory power. Into the darkness of a silent night came the brightness of the glory of the Lord. The word “glory” refers to God’s beauty and brightness. In the Old Testament glory is used synonymously with power, splendor and holiness. It has the idea of heaviness or weightiness.
I’m sure they were rubbing their eyes and shaking in their sandals. In fact, the word “terrified” is probably an understatement and means that they were alarmed and agitated. The Greek uses the word “megas” which means they were “mega afraid.”
Let’s pick it up in verses 10-12: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.” Once again, an angel has to tell humans to not tap out. The reason they did not need to be afraid is because the messenger was bringing “good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”
As the shepherds are trying to process the message from this one messenger, they are taken aback again in verse 13 because this proclamation is punctuated with an explosion of pent-up praise: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God…”
The word “suddenly” means that the heavenly host came unexpectedly and without warning. It’s as if one angel announcing the news was no longer enough. The sky is suddenly filled with a multitude of messengers, a great company of warriors, perhaps more than 100,000 worshipping with the widest and deepest and highest praise possible. They couldn’t help but praise because the Prince of Peace had been born.
We sang about this earlier in, “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” I love those opening words: “Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth; ye who sing creation’s story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth!”
By the way, these angels say, not sing their Christmas carol in verse 14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Notice that peace comes only after praising. When we put God and His glory first then peace will come. When we give glory to God He gives good news to us. While this is a neat time of the year, there is nothing magical about this day if one does not know the Christ of Christmas. While commentators differ on how this should be understood, I prefer this translation: “On earth peace, among men who are the objects of his pleasure.”
Peace comes to those who praise Him and grace arrives to those who give Him glory
We could say it this way: Peace comes to those who praise Him and grace arrives to those who give Him glory. Bruce Larson adds: “If you are able to receive what God wants to give, the message of peace is for you.” The highest degree of glory to God is connected with the giving of His Son. It all starts in heaven with God’s perfect plan and it arrives on earth where peace comes to those who personalize the message. It’s available to all but is activated only for those who accept Immanuel, for those who believe and receive.
Jesus came to bring joy and He came to bind up the brokenhearted. This is echoed in Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
The word “brokenhearted” denotes those who are broken, deeply afflicted and saddened, downcast and dejected. Just like Daryl in our drama…and perhaps like you…in the drama of your life.
Brokenness hits us physically, relationally, emotionally, financially and spiritually. Jesus bandages that which is broken. He gives each of us personal attention; soothing the pain; healing and restoring us to wholeness. In short, He brings peace where there is no peace.
The word “peace” appears over 400 times in Scripture. In the Old Testament, “peace” is the word shalom, and is a state of wholeness and harmony that is intended to resonate in all relationships. When used as a greeting, shalom was a wish for outward freedom from disturbance as well as an inward sense of well-being.
The word “peace” in the New Testament means to “join together; to set at one again.” It has the idea of gluing something back together. Because it is multidimensional, it is used in at least three ways.
- Peace with God – that’s the vertical dimension
- Peace of God – this takes place internally
- Peace with others – that’s peace horizontally
1. Peace with God.
While God loves us and cherishes us, we are separated from Him due to our sinfulness. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross, you and I can now be at peace with God. God the Father poured out His wrath, fury, and indignation on His Son, who died in our place, as our sin-substitute. I like what Jerry Bridges says: “Jesus did not die just to give us peace and purpose in life; He died to save us from the wrath of God.”
Listen carefully. We don’t deserve this peace to men on whom His favor rests. In fact, what we do deserve is death and eternal punishment. But, because of God’s great love, He provided a way for us to be set at one again with the God of the universe. God’s joy and His justice converge on the cross of Calvary. His love and His law find full satisfaction through the sacrificial death of His Son. God is both just and the justifier.
Friend, do you have peace with God today? Or are you far away from Him? Peace comes to the earth one heart at a time. No matter how far away you feel allow the truth of Isaiah 57:19 to wash over you: “‘Peace, peace, to those far and near,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will heal them.’”
2. Peace of God.
Peace is not the absence of adversity; it is the presence of God
In order to have the peace of God internally, we must first experience peace with God vertically. Those at peace with God can experience the peace of God. This inner peace has little to do with external circumstances. Peace is not the absence of adversity; it is the presence of God. Shortly before Jesus died, He declared in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
3. Peace with others.
When we’re at peace with God and have internal peace, we can then be at peace with others. Romans 14:19 lays out our responsibility: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Here’s a question. Are you planting peace in others or are you sowing seeds of strife? I heard from a happy grandmother some time ago who was rejoicing because her son and grandson have reconciled. Is there anyone you need to make things right with? Anyone you need to “be at one with”? Are you in conflict this Christmas with someone in your family? Maybe a root of bitterness has gone down deep in your life. It’s time to let it go. Maybe the best Christmas present you could give to someone is to get, or give, the gift of forgiveness.
A while back I received a phone call that made me feel very special. The voice addressed me by name and then told me to not hang up. I was assured that it was not a sales call and was urged to stay on the line. I was then told that I was especially selected to participate in a 30-second survey about our nation’s debt crisis. I felt so honored that this computer-generated call with a computer-generated voice had especially selected me for such an extremely important message…that I hung up the phone very quickly.
Friends, God is not like that at all. He doesn’t use a computer to call you. His message to you is very personal. He is addressing you by name right now and He doesn’t need you to fill out a survey because He knows everything about you. He cares so much for you that He sent His Son at Christmas to be your Savior. Please don’t hang up on Him.
Jesus was born to the whole world but He was also born “to you.” Christmas is his-story but it must become your story. Luke 2:11: “Today [that means right now – don’t hesitate or procrastinate] in the town of David a Savior [one who forgives sins] has been born to you; [personal] he is Christ [the long-awaited Messiah] the Lord [master and Leader].
- Is He “Savior” to you?
- Is He “Christ” to you?
- Is He “Lord” to you?
The mighty chorus of Heaven is proclaiming to you the glory of God wrapped up in the gift of His Son for you. God gets the glory when people are at peace. Will you receive the gift of salvation right now?
You could do so by praying this prayer with me: “I confess that I am a sinner and I want to turn from the way I’ve been living. I am not at peace with you, I don’t have peace inside, and I’m certainly not at peace with others. I need you to be my Savior and so I come to you now. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. I desire to live under your lordship for the rest of my life. Thank you for not only being born but for dying in my place and rising again so that I can be born again. I now receive the gift of salvation and forgiveness by asking you to come into my life. Make me into the person you want me to be. In the name of Jesus, Immanuel, I ask this. Amen.”
Communion commemorates the first coming of Christ and looks ahead to His second coming. The invitation to participate is for those who have asked Jesus to come into their lives. At Christmas we celebrate His birth; at communion we celebrate our new birth, made possible only by His death on the cross. His death brings us peace with God, gives us the peace of God and paves the way for us to be at peace with others. Communion = “com” + “union,” means, “An intimate connection.”
1 Corinthians 11:
Bread – Came bodily at Christmas. 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Cup – Came to shed his blood on Cross. 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Cradle – Cross – Crown 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself,
Joy to the World
From 2 Thessalonians 3:16: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”