************ Sermon on Luke 2:14a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 25, 1997
"The Angels' Song"
Boys and girls, let me tell you the story of Jennifer.
One evening Jennifer was inside the house waiting for her parents to come home. Because of a bad snowstorm they were taking longer than expected.
Jennifer stood at the living room window, looking for them when "Thump!" something hit the glass.
This really surprised and even scared Jennifer.
You know what it was? It was a bird that had hit the window. Jennifer could barely see it, lying in the snow, not moving.
"The poor bird!" Jennifer thought. "I'd better go out and get it. Maybe it broke its wing or something." As she was putting on her coat and boots, she heard two more "Thumps!"
She jumped up and ran to the window. Two more birds were lying in the snow. So she hurried outside and when she got there, there were even more thumps — more birds were banging into the glass.
Why did they do that? Jennifer looked up and saw the cold snow blowing around her and the bright warm light in the window. Of course! The birds saw the bright warm light and wanted to come to it and get warm. But they couldn't see the glass in the window.
What should she do? They were still banging into the glass. She ran back and forth across the front lawn, waving her arms, and calling, "No, no! Go away!"
Then she had an idea: she ran into the house and turned off the living room lights. There! They quit banging into the glass. But now what did she hear! Bangs into the kitchen glass! Why, the birds were trying everywhere there was a warm light! So Jennifer ran all through the house, turning off the lights in each room.
Then she ran outside to see if the birds were all right now. They were wheeling and flying around, all confused, not knowing where to go. And the snow and cold were getting worse.
Then she had another idea: she would turn on a light in the barn and open the door so the birds could fly in and be warm. And that's what she did. A few birds saw the light and flew in right away. Most of the birds, however, couldn't see the barn's light because it was behind the house, so they kept flying around. And, some of the birds were still banging into the window because they remembered it had looked warm.
Jennifer was so frustrated she stamped her feet and thought, "I wish I could become a bird and speak their language. I'd tell them where the light and warm place is."
And then a thought came to Jennifer: that's why Jesus came.
God became one of us, Jesus was born on Christmas Day, to speak our language and to tell us where the light and warmth and safety are.
The storm blew over. Jennifer had helped many of the birds. The one thing she never forgot, though, was how she stood in the snow and suddenly understood why Jesus came to us.
I The Angels Sing Because of the Messiah's Birth
A In today's Scripture reading we meet a "great company" of angels. It is clear that they, like Jennifer, knew and understood exactly why Jesus had come.
"Suddenly," says Scripture, "a great company of the heavenly host appeared ... praising God" (vs 13).
I always think of these Christmas angels when I read the words of David in Psalm 103:
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
B Why did the angels sing their song of praise to the Lord? Because of the "good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (vs 10). The angels sing their song of praise because of the "good news." From the beginning of time the angels have been waiting to hear this good news. And now the good news has finally been announced. So they sing their song of praise.
C What is the "good news"? "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (vs 11). That's good news; that's the best news ever proclaimed. To a lost in sin mankind God has sent a Savior. He is the promised Messiah. He will lead His people to victory over sin, death, and Satan.
Ever since man fell into sin the angels have waited to hear this good news. Ever since man disobeyed God the angels have been waiting for the news of the Savior's birth. And now the Savior is born. So the angels sing their song.
D The Messiah is our Savior. He was born to save us, not the angels. Yet, the angels sing their song of praise to God. They rejoice that our Savior is born.
I always stand in awe that the angels, who do not need the Savior or salvation, could sing a song of praise to the Lord because of the Savior's birth. If that is the angels' response to the Savior's birth, how much more should we sinful creatures sing a song of praise to the Lord? Even more than the angels we, on this Christmas Day, should be singing "Glory to God," because of the Savior's birth.
God has brought salvation to the world. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you." So the angels sing their song of praise. It is fair to say that the angels are the choir directors of God's people. They show us and teach us how to sing the praises of God. The whole created world must learn to sing the praises of God from them and with them.
II Messiah's Birth Reveals the Glory of the God in Heaven
A The angels' song is divided into two clauses or statements. The first clause, which we are looking at today, is "Glory to God in the highest."
I'm afraid that Charles Wesley, the 18th century clergyman and hymn writer, did not pay very careful attention to the angels' song. His song, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Yet, he is incorrect when he has the angels sing, "Glory to the newborn king." The newly born King had taken off His royal robes. He put His glory aside and came not be served but to serve (cf Phil 2:6-8; Mt 20:28). What the angels actually did sing was, "Glory to God in the highest."
Before the shepherds, the angels sing of God's glory. In the revelation given to him on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John sees angels singing of the same thing before the throne of God. "Then I looked," says John, "and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne ... In a loud voice they sang:
Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise ...
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
(Revelation 5:11,12; 7:12)
"Glory to God," sings the angels before the shepherds. "Glory to God," sings the angels around the throne.
"Glory." Do you know what it is? "Glory" is the sum total of all the honor, praise, and majesty that belongs to God. "Glory to God in the highest." In other words, to the God in heaven belongs honor, praise, and majesty; honor, praise, and majesty to He Who resides in the highest places.
Men and angels do not give this "glory" to God. It is already His and will always be His from eternity to eternity. What the angels in the sky and the angels before the throne are doing is recognizing and acknowledging the glory that has always been God's.
B Why do the angels sing of God's glory on the first Christmas Day? Because that glory is revealed in the birth of the Messiah. Notice, I did not say that the glory comes on Christmas; rather it is revealed and displayed on the first Christmas with the sending of Christ. God's full glory — His honor, praise, and majesty — is exhibited by the accomplishment of His eternal purposes. From eternity God has planned for a Savior from sin to enter this world, to be delivered of a virgin woman, to be of the lineage of David, to be born in the town of David, and to be the Messiah and Lord. On the first Christmas Day this eternal purpose was realized and God's glory was manifested for all to see.
According to an ancient Jewish legend when the angels saw what God did on the six days of creation they sang to Him a song of praise. And, when the angels see what God does on the first Christmas they once again sing a song of praise. The choir that gathered to celebrate the old creation, also gathers to celebrate the beginning of the new creation. In other words, what God does on the first Christmas Day is as worthy of praise as what He did on the six days of creation. God's act of salvation is as important as His act of creation. Christmas Day, like the days of creation, reveals to us God's glory.
God has brought salvation to the world. He has revealed His glory. And says the apostle John, "We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14b). So the angels sing, "Glory to God in the Highest."
C On the first Christmas the angels sing what comes most naturally to them: "Glory to God in the highest."
We must learn from these choir directors of God's people. For you see, God's first commandment for our lives is, "You shall have no other gods before Me." In other words, "Glory to God in the highest." And, the first thing God teaches us to pray is, "Hallowed be Your name." In other words, "Glory to God in the highest." All of life, all of our lives, must be directed towards the glory of God. God must be first.
But we have a hard time learning this and even a harder time living this. All of us and all of the created world must learn and relearn and relearn again the angels' song. On our lips today and everyday ought to be the words of the angels: "Glory to God in the highest."
I know that many times the angels are disappointed by the songs coming from this world. For too often, even in the lives of God's children, it is not "Glory to God in the highest" that is sung. So many times God is not and does not come first in our own lives.
But, there will come a day, a day when Christ's work is finished. On that day God will be "all in all" and "everything to everyone." On that day all of man, all of God's creatures, all of creation will unite in one tremendous choir; and, there will rise up to the throne of God one mighty refrain from all of the creation: "Glory to God in the highest." "Glory to God in the highest ... (because) today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
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