************ Sermon on Luke 2:14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 25, 2012
"Glory to God"
Christmas Day 2012
I The Incarnation's Purpose
A In this season of Advent and Christmas we have been asking the question, Why did Jesus come? Why did the eternal Son of God take to Himself a truly human nature? We have learned:
-He has come to save us from hell.
-He has come as the second Adam.
-He has come as the Messianic prophet.
-He has come as the Messianic king.
-He has come as the Messianic priest.
-He has come as the Light.
In answering the question this Christmas Day we come to the ultimate reason for the incarnation.
Why did Jesus come? Why did the eternal Son of God take to Himself a truly human nature? Here is the answer above every other answer: Jesus came for the glory of God. JESUS CAME FOR THE GLORY OF GOD. God's angels knew this ultimate answer. So, on the first Christmas they sang, "Glory to God in the highest." The shepherds were given a glimpse into the ultimate reason for the incarnation when the glory of the Lord shone around them (Lk 2:9). The disciples witnessed this purpose when they heard Jesus pray, "Father, glorify your name!" (Jn 12:28). And, every time we join the heavenly choir in singing God's glory we acknowledge we also know the ultimate answer to why Jesus came.
B "Glory to God in the highest." What is the glory of God? The original meaning of glory has to do with weightiness. The glory of God expresses the weightiness of God. The Greek word for "glory" includes such thoughts as splendor, brightness, shining, radiance, brilliance, amazing might, power, praise, honor, status, greatness, wonder, glorious being, benevolent supernatural power, and heaven. This all is the weight of glory.
But we can say more about the weight of glory. Not only is God splendorous, but He is the most splendorous. Not only is God bright, but He is the brightest. Not only does God shine, but He shines the most. Not only is God radiant, but He is the most radiant. Not only does God have amazing might, His is the most amazing might. Not only is God powerful, He is the most powerful. You get the picture. This, too, is the weight of glory.
What is the weight of glory? The weight of glory is the greatness, the grandeur, the majesty, and the excellence of our God.
C "Glory to God in the highest." Men and angels do not give this "glory" to God. It is already His and will always be His from eternity to eternity. Nor can men and angels add to this glory. How can you add on to the weight of glory? You can't, of course. It is not possible to add more power to someone Who is most powerful. It is not possible to add more brilliance to someone Who is most brilliant. It is not possible to add more radiance to someone Who is most radiant.
"Glory to God in the highest." So, what exactly is it that the angels are doing? The angels are publicly acknowledging the weight of God's glory in an act of worship. Likewise, we too are to acknowledge the weight of God's glory – in worship, in prayer, in life and lifestyle, in family and other relationships.
D "Glory to God in the highest." Do you know what Satan tried to do with the weight of glory? He tried to take it from God and make it his own. Remember what is said about Satan in Isaiah 14?
(Is 14:13-15) You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. (14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (15) But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.Satan tried to take God's glory and He was kicked out of heaven.
And, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to do the same thing he did. He tempted Adam and Eve to take from the weight of God's glory. He tempted Adam and Eve to be like God. When Adam and Eve listened, they committed the exact same sin as Satan and were kicked out of the Garden.
"Glory to God in the highest." How many times aren't we exactly the same as Satan? How many times aren't we like Adam and Eve? How many times don't we try to take from God's glory and make it our own? How many times don't we want to be the center of attention? How many times don't we want the praise and adoration of men? So your song and my song is, "Glory to me in the highest." Or, "Glory to man in the highest."
At the start of Luke's Gospel we are reminded that there is a higher purpose and calling to life. "Glory to God in the highest." This means we strive not to dishonor His most glorious Name. This means we live to the praise of His glory. However, can any of us honestly say that the glory of God consumes us? Does the glory of God define our life, our worship, and our witness?
E "Glory to God in the highest." Notice that phrase "in the highest." Among the Greeks and Romans, Zeus is "the highest" because Zeus is the god on the highest mountain; as such, he is the god and lord of heaven above. Among the Greeks and Romans, "the highest" is also a title claimed by Caesar. Don't forget, more than one Caesar claimed divinity. More than one Caesar demanded that all earthly beings bow down before them in worship.
However, among the Jews, "the highest" is a title used for God. The one true God, the God of the Bible, is "the highest" – not Zeus, not Caesar! God is the highest – that is, His is the fullest and greatest weight of glory. And, God is in the highest – He reigns in heaven above.
Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? The song of the angels tells us the ultimate answer: "Glory to God in the highest."
This is stanza one of the angels' song.
II The Incarnation's Significance
A In stanza two of their song, the angels tell us the significance of the incarnation for the world. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace ..." The birth of Christ brings peace, real peace on earth.
At that time and place, the world enjoyed a peace that was unprecedented. Thanks to Roman power and Roman might and Roman armies, the then known world enjoyed the "pax Romana." However, this was only an external peace, an imposed peace. A leading pagan thinker of the first century (Epictetus) had this to say about the "pax Romana":
while the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart, for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.
Through the coming of Christ, as the angels sing, true peace will come on earth.
B What is this peace? This past week at Rotary mention was made of world peace through the work of Rotary. Also this past week, Ruth and I watched part of the Miss Universe Beauty pageant. Of course, every Miss Universe contestant is going to be an ambassador for world peace if elected. Is this the peace sung about by the angels?
In some languages and cultures peace means the absence of trouble, worry, heart-ache, and hostile feelings. Is this the peace sung about by the angels – a problem-free life? There are also those who take the opposite approach. They view peace as the presence of health and well-being. Is this the peace sung about by the angels?
C What is this peace? What the angels sing about is peace with God. What the angels sing about is peace given by God through Christ. What the angels sing about is the peace that comes from salvation. What the angels sing about is a right relationship between the sinner and God.
D I want you to notice that this peace is not for all men. Christmas cards – like Miss Universe contestants – wish peace for all men. But this is not what the angels sing. They sing, "on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Who is the peace for? Who is the peace meant for? It is meant for men – and women and children – of God's favor. Or, as another translation puts it, men of God's goodwill.
Who are the men of God's favor? Who are the men of God's goodwill? They are the elect. They are the chosen. They are those who believe in Jesus Who died, Jesus Who arose, Jesus Who ascended into heaven, Jesus Who now sits at God's right hand.
III The Incarnation's Song
A Stanza one: "Glory to God in the highest." Stanza two: "and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Stanzas one and two are not totally separate from one another. They are part of the same song.
So, what is the relationship between glory to God and peace to men?
It is peace to men that provokes the angels' song of glory to God. The angels sing stanza one because they also sing stanza two.
B Ask yourself, when did the heavenly choir sing? They sang only after the good news has been delivered. What is the good news? Listen to the words of verse 11:
(Lk 2:11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
On Christmas Day, Who is born? Not just a little baby in a manger! Oh no, He is much more than that. He is David's promised descendent, He is the Savior, He is the Christ or Messiah, He is Lord!
The heavenly choir of angels hear the good news about the Savior's birth. And they cannot restrain themselves. They cannot keep their mouths closed any longer. So they sing out about God's glory.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." I repeat, the angels sing stanza one because they also sing stanza two. Telling us what? Telling us that the ultimate purpose of the incarnation, the ultimate purpose of the cross and the grave, the ultimate purpose of Easter's resurrection, the ultimate purpose of the ascension is to display the glory of God, the weight of God! In the Savior's birth the angels recognize the weight of God's glory!
C Don't we see the angels' song played out in the humble shepherds? They are told, "a Savior has been born to you." The angel did not say, "a Savior has been born to Mary." Nor did the angel say, "a Savior has been born to Israel." No, the angel said, "a Savior has been born to you." The baby in the manger is their Savior. He was born for them.
So what do they do? They hurried off to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. And they left praising God. They meet the Savior and they give glory to God.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Is this your song on Christmas Day? Do you recognize the weight of God's glory because the Savior has been born?
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