And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Advent is the season set aside for us to celebrate the arrival of Jesus, and look ahead to his second coming. This year, over these four weeks, we have chosen to take a look at the four “songs” of Advent in Luke’s gospel. Last week we zoomed in on Zechariah’s song as his tongue was loosed after his son, John the Baptist, was born. In the weeks to come, we will look at the songs of Mary and a man named Simeon. Today, we read and ponder the song of the angels.
Our text includes an extremely familiar one sentence hymn. It was the most important event ever, accompanied by the most important song ever, that contained the most important announcement ever. These words are still sung today in our Christmas music despite the fact that many do not have a clue what these words mean. We may not understand them all that much either. The words of this deep expansive little hymn are often misunderstood.
The hymn is, of course, a celebration of the baby’s birth, the Messiah that was promised. However, these words do more than that. They define our need and define the mission of that baby in the manger. However, these words not only announce a birth, they predict a death.
“Glory to God in the highest…”
Glory: (noun) magnificence; great beauty - (verb) to take pleasure in
You are glory focused. You are glory attentive. You’re glory seeking. You are glory obsessed. Everything you do in your life, everything you say, every choice you make, every reaction in relationships is done in pursuit of some kind of glory. You were created to live with the glory of God in view. You were created so that the principal motivation in your life would be that God would be praised - that God would be pleased. You were created to live with a God-ward existence and an upward-focused existence.
All of creation was designed to remind us of, and to point us to, the glory of God. Everything that was created is meant to be a finger that points us to the person and the character God and His plan. Creation was designed to remind us that God is, and God must be, the center of our existence. That’s the way it was supposed to be.
In a sad and devastating moment of disobedience and rebellion, Adam and Eve chose instead to live for the glory of the creation rather than the glory of God. They wanted something in the creation more than they wanted God. Ever since that horrible moment, there has been, in all of our hearts, glory confusion and a glory war. We don’t always live for the glory of God. There are other glories that now compete in our heart for this one glory.
We often forget God’s glory, and we live for other glories. In fact, every sin is an exchange of God’s glory for some glory in creation. All of us are glory confused and in some way are all glory thieves. Other glories become more precious to us - and we are convinced that we can’t live without them. Our lives are more dedicated to the worship of created things than the worship of the Creator. This never leads our hearts to rest, inner peace, or satisfaction - because these glories cannot fulfill our hearts.Every human was designed to live for God’s glory.
“...on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
We were created for peace (shalom) with God. We were created to have the most important thing in our lives be our relationship with God. We were created to have the high honor of being the worshipful, obedient friends of God.
Having peace with God would allow us to have peace within. This is not peace because we are strong, wise, or because we know what will happen next - but rather, peace because we have relationship with the One who rules everything and guides it by His hand. When that shalom is shattered then our hearts are not at rest.
In the Old Testament, shalom was not just the absence of conflict but a picture of all things in their proper order and working the way that they were designed to work. Peace with God means that I have peace inside. However, we do not always have this peace inside.
We were also created for peace with others. When we don’t have peace with God and therefore do not have peace inside of ourselves - we will struggle to live at peace with others. Unrest and conflict is all around us. Brokenness with God leads to brokenness within and leads to brokenness in the community that’s around us.
We Have A Heart Problem
If we have a glory problem, and a peace problem, then what we have is a heart problem. Our problems are not our relationships or situations. Our problem is that something is broken in our hearts. David declared, “Create in me a clean heart, O God”. We need radical, personal, long-term heart change because that is our problem.
The mission and work of Christ was to address this problem (Ezekiel 36:26). Our stony hearts can me made alive by Christ’s work and we can be changed. The good news in this hymn tells us that people who once lived for their own glory would now, by His grace, live for God’s glory. In every area of life - their words, their thoughts, their actions, their relationships, their desires - would all be for the glory of God!
We Need A Savior
We need a savior - we cannot rescue ourselves. We are the problem. The words of this hymn define our need. They also define Christ’s mission. The phrase, “peace among those with whom he is pleased!” is best translated “peace to those to whom His grace is given”. The only hope of peace is grace and the vehicle of grace is death.
Here is the plan- Jesus would come, and live a life where all of His thoughts and all of His desires, all His actions, reactions, and responses would be fully, completely, and perfectly lived to the glory of God. Jesus, on our behalf, would live for God’s glory. Jesus would live the life that we could not live. And on the cross, He would bear our penalty, and He would face the rejection of the Father so that we could know His acceptance and peace with Him. Upward peace would create inward peace - that would give us the ability to have outward peace.
Jesus did this to raise up a group of people who are captivated by the glory of God in increasing measure and love the fact that they have peace with God.
The angels announce your hope. The angels announce your redemption. The angels announce to you grace.
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?