Second Reformed Church

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"The Angels' Song" Sermon: Luke 2:13-14

“The Angels’ Song”
[Luke 2:13-14]
December (20) 24, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Mary and Joseph left Nazareth in Galilee and traveled to Bethlehem in Judea, because the Romans, who occupied Israel, were taking a census for the purpose of taxation. When they arrived in town, they looked for a place to stay, but the rooms were all taken, so they stayed in a cattle stall. And there, Mary delivered her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in rags, and laid Him in a feeding trough.

Meanwhile, out in the fields, there were shepherds, guarding their flocks, which they had brought out to eat the grass. Shepherds were low in the society’s eyes – they were out in the mud and the grass, dealing with the animals – both their herds and the occasional attack by a lion or bear, which the shepherd would have to fight off, and also bringing back the strays. It was pretty much the same thing every day.

But suddenly – that night – “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear” (Luke 2:9, ESV). The shepherds understood that they were sinners, and the Glory of God was the shining forth of His Holiness. They were terrified, because God coming in this way may have meant that God was coming to kill them – they were literally afraid for their lives!

But the angel said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12, ESV).

The shepherds knew their theology – they knew what the prophets had said. They remembered the words they heard read and taught in the temple from the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14b, ESV) and “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV).

And as the shepherds were only beginning to process this fulfillment of prophecy that the angel had told to them – a multitude of angels appeared – the heavenly beings were unable to sit back and let just the one angel deliver this amazing message of the arrival of God’s Savior – the whole sky filled with angels, and they all joined together in praising God for what God was doing in bringing these things to pass.

“Glory to God in the highest,”

The first thing we ought to get straight as we remember and celebrate the coming of God the Savior into the world is that it is not about us. We did not cause Him to come. The shepherds did not cause Him to come. The angels did not cause Him to come. Mary and Joseph did not cause Him to come. Santa Claus and the Little Drummer Boy didn’t cause Him to come. No, in the Eternal Counsel of the Trinity, before the Creation existed, the Son willingly gave Himself to become the God-Man and carry out the Will of His Father.

God is the One to be thanked. God is the One to be praised. Let us thank God for the Incarnation. Let us praise God for sending His Son. Let us give Him the highest thanks and the highest praise. Let us make His Name glorious. Let us tell others that the stimulation of the economy is not the reason for Christmas. Maybe it is a reason behind the “holiday season,” but it’s not the reason for Christmas. We celebrate because God kept His Word and sent Jesus to save God’s people.

“And on earth”

This Good News is for – in verse ten – “all the people” – for those “on earth.” This Good News is not for the angels, though they rejoice in it. This Good News is for humans – which is why God became a human and not a frog or a tree. This Good News is for all types of people – not just the Jews, but every type of person – Jews and Gentiles. This is Good News for every person and every type of person who believes in Jesus Alone for Salvation.

“Peace”

This is not the peace that the world gives. This is not the world-wide peace that we pray for. This is not merely a peace that is experienced in this world. This is peace with God. As Paul writes, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11, ESV).

This is a peace that begins in this world when we believe savingly in Jesus Alone, but it is a peace that is not fully experienced until we are received into the Kingdom. There, all who have believed in Jesus Alone for their salvation will know eternal and utter peace in and with God. There will be no more sin or pain or suffering. All will be in God and for God and with God.

“Among those with whom he is pleased!”

Or as the pew translation has it, “among those whom he favors.”

The Good News – the Incarnation of God – Jesus being born that first Christmas – is Good News that makes us at peace with the One and Almighty God. And this Good News should cause us to respond through praising and thanking God. But we also understand that if some are pleasing to God – if some are favored by God – there are others who are not pleasing – there are others who are not favored. There are those who do not find God becoming a human Good News. There are those who will never desire to be at peace with God.

And that should make us ask, “Why?” Why would anyone turn away from the Only Hope – the Only Salvation that there will ever be? That question brings us back to the first phrase of the angels’ praise, “Glory to God in the highest” – because unless God intervened, none of us would have responded to the Good News.

Paul wrote, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have ben saved through faith. And this [faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV).

In the Reformed tradition, we affirm what Paul says and what the angels said – salvation is all of God. If God left us on our own, none of us would ever desire to be right with God. But thanks be to God, for God’s Own Reasons, not because of us, God chose – before He even created – that God would create humanity and that He would chose to make some of us His through the Gift of Jesus.

That’s the theology – that’s what God reveals to us about Himself and what He has done. And we have been saying these weeks that right theology leads to doxology – a right understanding of God leads to praising God. Does the Good News of Jesus being born two thousand years ago make you want to praise God? Does it make you want to tell others?

After the angels praised God, they returned into heaven, and the shepherds went to see the Newborn Son. The went to Bethlehem and met Mary and Joseph and worshiped the Baby Jesus. They told them everything that had happened, and Mary treasured and pondered what they said in her heart. And then the shepherds went back to their fields, but on the way, they glorified and praised God for all they had seen and heard – for the Good News that had been revealed to them – lowly shepherds that they were. Surely they told everyone they came in contact with on the way back – and from then on – “You won’t believe what happened to us You won’t believe what we saw You won’t believe the Good News that has been revealed to us ”

Tomorrow is Christmas day, because a Baby was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. What shall we say about this?

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for revealing the Good News of Jesus to us. Thank You for causing us to understand and believe and for giving us the Reason to praise You. May we never forget or find ourselves embarrassed to confess You before others. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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