Grace For The Journey
How many angels did the shepherds encounter at the announcement of Jesus’ birth? We know that there was one angel who brought the good news concerning the birth of the Savior. He is simply identified as “an angel of the Lord.” He made the greatest announcement any angel ever made, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”
Accompanying this angelic messenger was “a great company of the heavenly host.” This unnumbered group was a part of the singing angelic army of heaven. That they were angels is obvious from the reference in the text, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven.” The word “host” is the ordinary Greek word for a sizeable army. It has as its background a Hebrew word that is translated “host” in the Old Testament. It, too, referred to an angelic army. Whenever “the host of heaven” made their appearance, ordinarily they were involved in some struggle on behalf of the people of God or some judgment upon the people of God.
There is no way to over estimate
The power and potential of this
Heavenly army whenever they
Are involved in a human struggle.
- It only took one soldier from that army to devastate the army of Sennacherib and to leave a hundred and eighty-five thousand dead soldiers lying on the field of battle after only one night of struggle.
- It only took one angel to bring devastation upon the nation of Israel when God moved against them in judgment during the reign of King David.
This is the only occasion that the army appears on Earth in their role as a choir. Their responsibility in heaven ordinarily is to serve as a choir offering praise to God. What we have in the heavenly host is a singing army.
It brings before us one of the
Basic functions of the angels –
They sing the praises of God.
I want us to take this familiar part of this great event to learn something more about the angels and its significant lesson for our lives.
I. THE SCENE OF THEIR SONG.
This is one of the most surprising things in the Christmas story. Throughout Biblical history every appearance of the heavenly army on the earth had been on some mission of death and destruction. This time they are on the earth as the heavenly choir. Their time in the presence of God in heaven is taken up with the singing of His praises. We have notable examples of this both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
This appearance in this particular setting is of great significance.
1. The Scene Is Not The Temple.
If the singing army is to make an appearance on earth and give a brief concert, is it not logical to expect that they will do this in the temple at Jerusalem? There was a human choir that sang the praises of God generation after generation in the temple at Jerusalem. The temple is the place where religious leaders of the land of Israel congregate to do their service to God. The fact that the singing angelic army did not give its brief concert in the temple at Jerusalem is a judgment on the temple. It indicates that the God of heaven is by-passing the religious structures of Israel in bringing His Messiah into the world. He evidently does not consider the religious leaders to be the proper subjects to hear this brief concert. That the religious leaders of the people of God could slip into such a decadent state that when God is getting ready to do something significant He would by-pass them needs to be a warning to all of us who are involved in the spiritual leadership of our day.
2. The Scene Is In A Field With Some Shepherds.
There may not have been more than two or three in company that night. But they are the ones who are allowed to hear the earthly concert of this heavenly choir. This says something about the purpose of God at this point in history.
The shepherds should be seen
As representing the common
And ordinary people.
They would have been held in contempt by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Shepherds were considered ceremonially unclean since their lifestyle made it impossible for them to live by all the rules that the religious leaders had put in place. They would not be welcome in the temple to hear any concert by any choir. So . . . God sends the singing angelic army to give their brief concert to a place outside of the temple. The concert is shared with people of the ordinary way of life.
It is a reminder to us that the
Mission of Jesus into the world
Was not to save the religious
Structures of the day, but it
Was rather to save sinners.
We must not forget that this aspect of His mission has not changed. He is more likely to have a heart for someone who would be considered outcast by us than He is for those of us who have worked so hard at achieving a certain level of respectability.
The scene for this brief concert is in itself a part of the Good News. The coming of Christ is about bringing joy to those who have had very little earthly opportunity to ever know joy.
II. THE SUBJECT OF THEIR SONG.
Their anthem was rather brief, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace , goodwill toward.” What were they singing? What is the essence or the theme of their anthem? It obviously divides itself into two statements. The first is concerned with God in heaven; the second is concerned with man on earth.
1. The Glory Of God In Heaven.
We should see in this brief anthem sung by the singing angelic army a statement concerning what is to be accomplished by the mission of the Messiah. As a result of the coming of the Baby born in Bethlehem, there is to be “glory to God in the highest.” The primary result of the mission of Jesus in the earth will be to reveal to mankind the essence of the Divine Being and to bring great glory to God in the highest. In this statement we are to understand “in the highest” as referring to heaven itself. Because the Messiah, the Son of God, came to earth, there will be great praise, honor, and glory given to God in heaven. This singing angelic army is sensitive to who God is and what God has done, and they are prepared to acknowledge who God is and the glory of what He has done in their Christmas song.
2. Peace To Man.
The second statement in the Christmas song indicates that something is to take place on earth. We should see earth standing in contrast to the highest. The thing that is to take place involves men and this is to be seen in contrast to God. Something is to happen in heaven in reference to God and then something is to happen on earth with reference to man. The thing that is to happen on earth with reference to man is “peace.”
The inclusion of peace in their Christmas song refers to peace in a comprehensive sense.
The mission of Jesus is to bring
Peace with God to men.
His mission is to reconcile
God and sinful man.
Because of His mission to earth, lost human beings will now be able to draw nigh to God and enter into a relationship with God that is best described as “peace.”
When man knows peace with God, then he begins to know the peace of God. The peace of God includes a man coming to peace with himself. This is the experiential side of peace. When through the Lord Jesus we are reconciled to God, it removes those destructive and negative thoughts we have about ourselves and replaces them
with a sense of acceptance, even being under the favor of God.
The peace even goes a step further for when men are at peace with God and at peace with themselves, then it becomes possible for them to be at peace with others.
- The family and the home benefits from us being at peace with God.
- The business and market-place benefit from us being at peace with God.
- The community benefits from us being at peace with God.
- The world benefits from us being at peace with God.
When we are not a peace with God, we tend to be at war with ourselves and with others.
Another aspect of this peace is described in this passages as, “goodwill toward men.” This phrase gives emphasis to the fact that the good will is God’s good will. Those who know the peace of God are those upon whom God has set His heart and to whom He has extended His grace. It is when we come under the grace of God, even the favor of God through the Lord Jesus Christ, that we know the peace with God.
We must never forget that even though our world only dreams about peace, peace is still a possibility through the Lord Jesus Christ. In their Christmas anthem the singing angelic army celebrated this accomplishment on the part of the Messiah that was born that day. He was born to be “The Prince of Peace.” Because of His mission into the world our God is now known as “the God of peace.” Peace is a possibility for you personally because Jesus came.
Peace is a possibility in our world because Jesus came. The subject of their Christmas song related to God and man, heaven and earth, glory and peace.
III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SONG.
What significance are we to see in this brief concert given by the singing angelic army on the hills just outside of Bethlehem. There seems to be two points of real significance . . .
1. A Sign.
The angels made this musical mission to earth as a sign of the significance of the birth of the Son.
Holy God wanted it known on earth that
What was happening in the stable
Outside of the inn in Bethlehem was
Of eternal and heavenly significance.
The concert was in honor of the occasion. This singing angelic army does not sing for county fairs, or inaugurations of presidents. Its concerts are reserved for those significant points of redemptive history. This is the moment that is best described as “the fullness of time.” In order to make it known to the citizens of earth that something significant is happening, God sent His heavenly singing army to give this brief concert there on the
2. A Sample.
When I was growing up, my parents would visit a relative in northern Missouri. They were old time farmers who did not have a lot of the conveniences that people enjoy today. They had only one source of water. There was an old well in back of the yard with an old-fashioned iron pump on it. Sometimes the pump would become dry and the leather piece that created the suction that pulled the water up would shrink. The best way for them to get the pump to operate in those circumstances was to prime it. You would take some water, pour it into the pump and then begin to work the handle. It would swell the leather and would be used to prime the pump. Soon when you poured in the water, and worked the handle, fresh water would begin to flow from the pump.
It occurred to me that this was what God was doing when He sent the singing angelic army to give this brief concert there in Judea. He wanted to prime the pump of the man’s spirit and to cause mankind to begin to sing the praises of His name and to express the proper response to the coming of His Son to earth.
His strategy worked. As you read the text you find that these shepherds who heard the brief concert went to search out for themselves to see if what the angels had said was really true. When they came to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph with the new born Son. Luke reports that they responded with joy. Verse 20 tells us, “Then shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” Before Christmas day was over . . .
There was not only a heavenly choir
Singing the praises of
The one born to Mary,
There was an earthly choir.
It was made up of humble men who had seen for themselves the new-born Babe and had embraced for themselves the message of the angel that He was “Christ the Lord.” Because of the joy that is in their hearts they are giving glory to God and offering praise to His worthy name. The Father started earth to singing the praise of the Son by sending the singing angelic army for its brief concert.
Almost without interruption since that first Christmas morning there has been a company of people somewhere on the earth prepared to lift their voices in praise. There has been a company who were ready to sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest , and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
I am thankful that I can be a part of such a company.
Because of what God did in Christ,
He is worthy of our praise.
Because of what God the Son
Did in His mission on earth,
He is worthy of the praise of my lips.
Because of what God the Holy Spirit
Did in sustaining God the Son in
His mission to the earth,
He is worthy of my praise.
There is no need for any new priming for there is flowing forth from my spirit spontaneously and gladly praise to the name of the Lord. Are you prepared to join me not only on this day but in every day of life in singing of the goodness, grace, and glory of our God so that all may know what He has done in the Son?
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”