Glory, God, and Us!
Read Luke 2: 8-14.
James Montgomery captured the spirit of this remarkable scene when he penned Angels From the Realms of Glory 200 years ago.
Angel from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Shepherds, in the fields abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing. Yonder shines the infant Light.
Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ the new-born King!
This is a thunderous scene: one angel on the ground directing a sky full of other angels. These angels that appeared suddenly could indeed have been singing; or they could have been shouting. We are not told. What we do know is that this wasn’t a staid Baptist worship service!
They are directing praise to God, but it is obviously for the benefit of the shepherds.
Verse 14 is laden with theological truth. Let’s unpack it today. There are two great truths that serve as an exclamation point to the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem.
There is no verb in this verse. Instead it is a grand banner – a Christmas bumper sticker! Literally it is, glory in highest to God and upon earth peace in men of good will.
I. The birth of the Savior first and foremost evokes praise for God’s glorious character.
“Glory to God in the highest…”
A. God is worthy of universal praise. (glory)
Gloryis the term transliterated to doxa or “doxology”. It basically means an appearance of brightness, radiance, or spender that is the revealed presence of God or of God Himself (multiple lexicons). In the LXX it is clearly used this way (See Ex 16:10, 24:16, 33:22; Num 14:21, etc). This is the OT Shechena – the glory of God.
Thus it might be argued that the angels were referring to the presence of God Himself on that “holy night” rather than solely the blinding light in the dark sky.
But, I prefer to see it both ways, in fact three ways. The glory of God appeared in Bethlehem at the stable as Jesus was born, himself being God and thus God’s glory was present (as v 9 may indicate). In consequence the night sky on the hillside surrounding Bethlehem was ablaze with the blinding light of God’s glory emanating from the cradle. So the angelic choir responded by shouting “glory to God in the highest”
Note how pivotal this term is in connection to Christ.
In the birth account of Luke alone it is use two additional times. NAS Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. NAS Luke 2:32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Thy people Israel. "
At the beginning of Christ’s ministry his glory was evident. NAS John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
NAS John 2:11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him
At the end of Christ’s life there was a similar event. NAS Luke 19:36 And as He was going, they were spreading their garments in the road. 37 And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 saying, "BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" 39 And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." 40 And He answered and said, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!".
Christians now in heaven focus on His glory. NAS Revelation 4:11 "Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created."
The glory of the Lamb will dominate our eternal existence in the heavenly city. NAS Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Therefore this is a praise event! It reminds us of the traditional “doxology” we sing…”praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all creatures here below; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
Of course there are many things for which we may praise God. But obviously, the birth of the Savior is in the minds of the angelic choir!
Indeed, all creation has an obligation to acknowledge his glorious presence. NAS Psalm 69:34 Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them
And one day, all will give God his due glory, NAS Philippians 2:11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
Illust: The following story illustrates this. I share it with fear and trepidation. I think you’ll see why.
H. G. Wells was no friend of the church, but sometimes he served us well. Years ago in the New Yorker, he told a story about an Episcopalian clergyman. (He could have told it about a preacher from any denomination.) This Episcopalian bishop was the kind of man who always said pious things to people. When troubled folks came to him, he found that a particularly helpful thing to say, if said in a right tone of voice, was, "Have you prayed about it?" If said in just the right way, it seemed to settle things.
The bishop himself didn't pray much; he had life wrapped up in a neat package. But one day life tumbled in on him, and he found himself overwhelmed. It occurred to the bishop that maybe he should take some of his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral, went to the front, and knelt on the crimson rug. Then he folded his hands before the altar (he could not help but think how childlike he was).
Then he began to pray. He said, "O God--" and suddenly there was a voice. It was crisp, businesslike. The voice said, "Well, what is it?"
Next day when the worshipers came to Sunday services, they found the bishop sprawled face down on the crimson carpet. When they turned him over, they discovered he was dead. Lines of horror were etched upon his face. What H. G. Wells was saying in that story is simply this: there are folks who talk a lot about God who would be scared to death if they saw him face to face. Citation:Haddon Robinson, "Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Us Guys," Preaching Today, Tape No. 80.
B. Heaven is the place where God’s glory is uniquely shown. (“in the heavens”)
There are two ideas. The angels are looking skyward where this brilliant light of God’s glory is shining. Thus they proclaim glory to God “in the highest.”
And second, there is the implication that God’s glory is uniquely evident in heaven where he abodes! So what is happening here is that men are getting a glimpse into heaven!
C. The birth of the Savior directs praise to God alone. (to God)
1. We should glorify God because we are creatures.
This scene reminds us that we are created for a singular purpose, namely to give God glory. A look to both the past and future verifies this.
NAS Isaiah 43:7 Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made. "
NAS Revelation 4:11 "Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created."
2. We should glorify God because we are saints.
Remember, the reason for this whole show was the birth of a Savior! Men need saving! And Jesus is the one who saves from our sin.
Those of us who have been saved are under the supreme obligation (or should I say privilege) to praise God. NAS Ephesians 1:12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
Mark this down: salvation is not about us. We get no credit. The Savior came by direction of the Godhead. We had nothing to do with it. Had God not acted by sending the Savior, we would be hopelessly and irretrievably doomed to eternal damnation because of our sin.
But Bethlehem did take place! No wonder the angels are glorying in God and God alone! But, come to think about it, the fact that angels made up the heavenly choir on that first Christmas night is quite remarkable in one sense. Though, as creatures they rightly praised God, they are not the objects of redemption. Jesus did not come to save them! He came to save humankind!
So if angels can raise their voices in a great doxology, why not us? Why are our voices so silent?
Dare we hear with renewed understanding the familiar carol penned by John Francis Wade so many years ago?
O come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, Born the King of Angels!
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above.
Glory to God - All glory in the highest!
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be the glory giv'n;
Word of the Father, Now in the flesh appearing,
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
NAS Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.