“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, good will toward men.” Luke 2:13, 14
Familiar and most beautiful! A song sung by a choir that was much larger than the audience.
It was one of the most marvelous revelations in this world’s history. Heaven opened. The heavenly choir sang. A heavenly message was given and received.
May we receive the message of this song. May we respond by joining them in praise to our heavenly Father.
The angels are always singing praise to God. Listen to Revelation 4:11: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” This expression of adoration is an essential part of the unending praise heard in glory. Listen also to Revelation 5:13: “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
In the above text the heavenly choir of angels sings this song with greatest joy as the most fitting accompaniment to the announcement of the birth of the Messiah and the salvation He came to accomplish.
“Glory” is what they ascribe to God. Glory is the implication and radiation of perfections. God has every perfection in Himself perfectly and infinitely. He has wisdom and holiness, truth and righteousness, love, grace, mercy and justice, and power; and He is these perfections in an infinite way.
In the incarnation the glory of every virtue of God is displayed in an unparalleled manner. While every one of God’s works displays His virtues, those virtues are not seen at the level at which they are evident in Jesus’ birth (which begins His work of earning salvation for those given Him of the Father). First, Jesus is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3a). And the incarnation (God coming into human flesh) displays God and His attributes in the highest way. Also God’s mercy, grace, and love, along with His righteousness, justice, and holiness are manifested in Jesus’ work of earning salvation, His work of “upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:3b).
We must admit that the display of God’s glory is beyond our ability to comprehend. We must be careful that we do not limit God and His glorious display to our ability to comprehend it. Remember that the glory of God surrounding the angel caused the shepherds to be “sore afraid” (Luke 2:9), and remember that the sinless angels cover themselves in a twofold manner before the thrice holy God (Is. 6:1-3). This implies that no earthly human can comprehend God’s glory. We will declare it, but we cannot comprehend it.
We ought to join this heavenly choir in this song of praise to God. Be aware that everyone who celebrated the original Christmas glorified God. Mary did. Zacharias did. Also the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna. May we sing as long as we live while yet on the earth. The joy of being forgiven and of having the hope of eternal life is so very great that it more than compensates for any hurt or loss we may experience here. That is why we ought to join Paul in counting all things but loss for the excellency of knowing Jesus (Phil. 3:8).
Saved sinners have reason to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4).
The glory of God is experienced on earth with “peace.”
Since the fall of man into sin, there has been no peace. Adam experienced this lack of peace with God when angels with flaming swords drove him out of the Garden of Eden. With the fall into sin came anger, the desire for revenge, war, rumors of war, fights, and arguments. “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Is. 57:20, 21).
The angels knew that the Baby lying in the cattle stall in the city of Bethlehem came to earth in order to make the experience of peace again a reality.
Peace begins in God. He is the God of peace, of undisturbed harmony, unity, and agreement (Rom. 15:33; Rom. 16:20; Phil. 4:9; I Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20). In God there is no conflict and no confusion. There is no disagreement among the three persons of the Godhead.
Any peace for a creature has to be of God and comes from God, for man cannot make peace. That is what is meant by the expression “the peace of God” (Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15). Thus peace on earth is first the experience that God is at peace with us. It is to know that God is not against us, but reconciles us to Himself, thus making peace. The experience of peace is that the God of peace is for us, loving and blessing us.
The Baby born in Bethlehem is our peace. He is the Prince of peace, for He is God and man together, united inseparably. This Baby would establish peace by going to the cross to make the payment for sin, to earn forgiveness and righteousness, so that God is at peace with us. Jesus made peace by destroying sin’s right to reign over us, by paying its penalty. God’s raising Jesus from the dead is God’s signature on the covenant of peace. Peace with God is the fruit of Jesus’ work of justification.
Because God is at peace with us (and we with God) there can be peace with one another. Outside of peace with God there is jealousy, deceit, enmity, malice, and hypocrisy. When we receive the abounding, blessed, inner joy of God being at peace with us, then we express our gratitude by seeking, “if it be possible, as much as lieth in [us, to] live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
Peace is found only in the Baby of Bethlehem. The peace of Christmas has nothing to do with the condition of this world and of our earthly lives. This peace is far above the earthly. It is unity and agreement and harmony with God’s heart. This peace guards us (our hearts and minds) as we travel through this world.
The angelic choir adds: “good will toward men.”
“Good will” always refers in Scripture to God’s good pleasure. God is pleased to exercise His good pleasure to men. Divine pleasure is extended, not to every human, but to the elect humans (who altogether make up mankind). Every individual human is justly the object of God’s wrath because of man’s fall into sin. But it is God’s “good will” to save to Himself a certain number whom He unites together. In His good will God declares to them that, though their sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Is. 1:18). In the Baby lying in the manger we see God’s good will toward us! He has forgiven us at the greatest price to Himself!
May we then exclaim, “Glory to God.” The devil and our sinful natures take glory away from God, charging God with not being good or righteous. But Christ is come and He reveals that God is glorious. And the birth of God’s Son in human flesh reveals God’s glorious grace and righteousness in an unprecedented way. Know the salvation and the hope He has given to us and join the angels to sing, “Glory to God!” This song will be sung into all eternity.
Rev. Ronald Van Overloop (Wife: Sue)
Ordained: October 1972
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1972; Home Missionary (AL) - 1979; Bethel, Roselle, IL - 1989; Georgetown, Hudsonville, MI - 1994; Byron Center, MI - 2004; Grace, Standale, MI - 2008