Sermon: Glory to God and Peace to Men

Text: Luke 2:1-20
Christmas Eve
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is your favourite Christmas carol? Perhaps you like Silent Night, Away in the Manger, or Hark! The Herald. There are many joyful Christmas Carols. We can’t even imagine celebrating Christmas without the old familiar hymns. But, one carol has been sung more than any other. In fact, most Christians continue to sing it nearly all year round. It’s been sung for a millennium and a half. What song is that? It is the song of the angels on that first Christmas Eve. Gloria in Excelsis Deo. This is what we sing every Communion Service. The pastor sings: “Glory be to God on high”, and the congregation replies: “And on earth peace good will toward men.” It’s also part of several carols. This song of the angels shows us the true nature of Christmas. The powerful song of the angels tells us two things: first, it gives all glory to the God of heaven; second, it announces that the God of heaven has established peace between himself and mankind.

I. Glory to God

In the first part of the song, glory is given to God. “Glory be to God in the highest” (Lk 2:14). God is on high, in the highest. That means he is exalted above this world, the ruler over all that exists, living in that unapproachable light that no mortal man can see and live to tell about it. He is untouched by sin, sickness, and death. He alone has immortality. He alone is holy. We cannot stand in judgment of him because he is the Creator and Judge of all. He created us. He gave us life. He generously provided us with all the good things we have.

Giving God the glory is giving him the credit he is due. Do you think we should glorify God? It’s precisely what we should do. It is our obligation. God is the one who does all, gives all, and possesses all things. No one can really claim anything as their own or merit anything for themselves. What could we offer back to God? What can we give the one who has everything? “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him” (SC II.2). In all things, praise and glory must be given to God. The glory belongs to no one but God alone, and he does not share his glory with anyone because he alone is God. It is his due.

Yet, we often fail to give God the glory. There is an evil that is deeply rooted in all of us. We don’t want to give the credit and glory to someone else. We want to have all the glory for ourselves. Yet, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). So, did you notice the birth of God’s Son was announced to shepherds? Shepherds were among the most poor and despised people in Palestine. Why should God choose shepherds to be the first to hear the good news instead of some more important group of people? Because the gospel is for all people, incredibly the least, the lost, and the lowly. These shepherds were told who this child was. “For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). This child is the saviour, the Messiah, the Lord.

When the angels sing God’s praise, that’s an invitation. You are invited to join in the praise, to glorify God for what he has done. The angels glorify God because the child is born. God is the one who is glorified in the birth of his Son. God’s glory is that he would be gracious to undeserving sinners. You have a reason to rejoice and shout for joy because God sent His Son. God became a child for you. The angel said, “For to you is born this day….” This child is for you. He was conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary for you. He was wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger for you. No matter who you are, you can rejoice. This child is for you!

II. Peace and Goodwill to Men

The second part of the song proclaims peace on earth. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men” (Lk 2:14 alt). The peace announced here is not a wish but a reality. It is not, that is, angels desiring that there should be peace on earth, but angels bellow out the remarkable fact that there is peace on earth. This is not the kind of peace the United Nations offers–peace between men. This is peace with God. Because we have refused to acknowledge God and give him the glory, we stand at war with him. Because of our sin, there is continual hostility and warfare between God and man, which overflows into hostility and warfare among men.

We need peace. That’s why the angels here announce that God has sent his own Son to assume human flesh and blood and to make lasting peace between God and men.  Instead of the anger and just condemnation we deserve, God has given us what we do not deserve. God’s favour rests upon you because God became a man. God has been extraordinarily merciful and the angels sing his praises because of it. Mary’s newborn child will bring an end to hostilities. Jesus has restored a proper relationship between you and God. The Son of God became a man to bring you peace and salvation. This birth is proof of God’s goodwill toward you, his good pleasure, and his grace. The peace and good will of Christmas are not limited to certain people. It is for everyone. If it’s peace for everyone, that means it’s peace for you. God has done the unthinkable.

Lying in the manger is a child who will be the true shepherd-king, the true Prince of Peace and Savior, who will bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. This child will grow up to be a man who always gives God the glory. The peace he brings will come not from military might but from justice and mercy. He will rule not with coercive force but with the power of self-giving love. He became flesh and blood to make peace with God through his death on the cross. Christmas does not stop in Bethlehem. It reaches beyond Calvary to the empty tomb. The Son of God became a baby and a child so that you may be a perfect human. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes so that you may be freed from the snares of death. He was in a manger so that you may be at the altar. He had no other place in the inn, so you may have a place in his Father’s house. Although he was rich, he became poor, for your sake, that through his poverty, you might be rich. The cries of Mary’s child cleanse you. His tears wash away your sins.

Christmas is more than tinsel and toys, trees and teas, gifts and greetings. It’s not merely a wishing someone peace and goodwill today and forgetting about it tomorrow. Christmas is a message of peace among men because God has established peace with us by sending his Son into the flesh. Christ was the ambassador telling us that God wants to pardon our sins and lay aside His just anger against us. Jesus’ birth is proof that God is favourable towards you. God’s good pleasure is toward you and not because of our own merits. His love for us in our helplessness moved Him to send His Son for our redemption. You have peace because God’s goodwill is given to all men. Mary’s child is the whole world’s Savior. He brings peace between God and people. He will heal your broken relationship with God, which was caused by your own evil. God has shown you just how much he loves you by giving you a saviour to raise you out of the muck and mire of your sin and give you the life of heaven.

On this Christmas Eve, I bring you tidings of great joy. Pardon for all sin, comfort for all trouble, and life for the dead. Go to Bethlehem. Bend your knees in humility just like the shepherds bowed before the manger. Kneel because God became a child. Joyfully sing the Gloria in Excelis with all the angel hosts. Sing because this child has brought peace with God. The peace the angels sang was a promise that this innocent little baby would bear the sin of the whole world in his sacred body. I wish you a happy Christmas, happiness from the promise of sins pardoned, and peace with God.

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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