Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Angels' Song

Part 3 of The Original Christmas Playlist

Text: Luke 2:8-14





“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased” (v. 14). 


What Is Christmas All About?

My favourite Christmas special is A Charlie Brown Christmas. It begins with Charlie Brown depressed about Christmas. He says to Linus, “I think there must be something wrong with me. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” Finally, as Charlie Brown is trying to direct a Christmas play, he asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” His friend Linus responds by reciting Luke 2:8-14. [1]

Unlike Charlie Brown, the majority of people in North America know that Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth. But I think most people miss the significance of his birth. Why does the birth of Jesus matter?


Good News! 

There are many surprising parts to the Christmas story. One surprise is that the first people to be told about Jesus’ birth is a group of lowly shepherds. God cares about ordinary people. These shepherds are “keeping watch over their flock by night” (v. 8). Imagine the shepherds’ surprise when “an angel of the Lord appear[s] to them, and the glory of the Lord [shines] around them” (v. 9). As we would expect, “They [are] filled with fear” (v. 9). The angel says to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news” (v. 10). The good news that the angel brings to the shepherds is news “of great joy” (v. 10). [2]

The good news is that a baby has been born in Bethlehem. The angel announces, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (v. 11). The good news of Christmas is that a Saviour has been born!


Praise in Heaven, Peace on Earth

After the angel tells the shepherds the good news, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host” (v. 13). All of the angels are “praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (vv. 13-14). [3] “In the highest” refers to heaven. God in heaven is given glory, and people on earth are given peace. “Those with whom [God] is pleased” are those who have put their trust in Christ as their Savior. Peace “is essentially a synonym for salvation.” [4] We need peace with God.

When we understand what Christmas is all about, we should be filled with praise! The angel had given to the shepherds a “sign”: “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (v. 12). “What is amazing is not that the child is wrapped up, but who the child is and where he is. One hardly expects to find Messiah in an animal room. One would expect a palace…. Messiah’s life will contain an unusual bookend for a king, since he was born in an animal room and will die with robbers.” [5]

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[1] Network executives didn’t want Linus to recite Scripture, thinking that viewers wouldn’t like it. But Charles Schulz was determined to keep the scene in, saying, “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?”
[2] We could contrast the lasting joy of this good news with the temporary joy that most Christmas presents bring.
[3] This is the third Christmas song in the Gospel of Luke—though it does say that the angels said these words (“saying”). This song is often called the Gloria because Gloria is the first word of the song in the Latin Vulgate.
[4] R. H. Stein, Luke, 109.
[5] Darrell L. Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50, 219.