Sunday, December 22, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Angels We Have Heard on High"

“Angels We Have Heard on High”
December 22, 2013
Luke 2:13-14  

Put yourself in their shoes.

Huddled in the cold, damp, dark night in the Bethlehem countryside, you are a shepherd.  You are the “low-man” on the “totem-pole” of society.  You have a rough, rotten job that earns no respect, and you...smell like sheep!

But tonight, tonight everything in your little world is going to change. Suddenly {BAM!}, an amazing extraterrestrial being appears before you!  It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  And a shimmering blaze of gleaming light radiates around you.

You are scared out of your wits!  Your knees buckle together, and you almost cry like a baby you are so terrified!

And then, then this being–this messenger from God...speaks to you...with words in your own language.  He/she/it/whatever announces that the world has just been invaded by the Son of God Himself.  In the next town over, a Savior has been born that is the promised Messiah and the Lord of all the Earth.

You stand there and you receive this information with your eyes wide open and your mouth hanging down to your chest and your mind reeling with this news.  You are almost beside yourself with wonder and astonishment.

And then...then it gets even more amazing!

Luke chapter 2, verse 13: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”

That fearsome being was no longer alone.  All of sudden, there is a whole army of them!

Your heart almost stops at the powerful sight before you–an entire army of unbelievable beings resplendent with brilliance.

And then your ears begin to ring with the sound of their song filling the night air.

Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains.
And the mountains in reply echo back their joyous strains.

When I learned that both Anita & Amy Jo and Cody had picked out “Angels We Have Heard on High” as a song for today, I decided to look at Luke 2:13-14 to see what those angels sang about and see if it wasn’t what we needed to hear today.  I think it was.

What do angels sound like when they sing?

What does a regiment of angels sound like when they sing?

What does a legion of angels sound like when they sing?

What in the world does an army of angels sound like when they raise their voices together in mighty praise?

I don’t know...but I can’t wait to find out!

And even more important than the sight or the sound is the significance of what they are saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The angels broke forth in a magnificent song explaining what the birth of Jesus Christ was all about.

The angels’ song was about the meaning–the significance–of Christmas.

It’s not about toys or gifts or Santa or stockings or trees or shopping or supper or cookies or wrapping or presents or even family!  It’s not even about the angels who were so amazing to the shepherds that night.

According to the angels’ song, Christmas is fundamentally about two things: glory and peace.

Glory and peace.

The angel we have heard on high sing about glory and peace.

Luke chapter 2, verse 14: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The angels’ song proclaimed that the birth of this baby boy in Bethlehem brought (#1) glory to God in heaven–the highest place in all the universe.

As they say in Latin, “Gloria In Excelsis Deo.”  Glory to God in the highest.

I have a question for you this morning: What is glory?

Kids, at the dinner table today, ask your parents to define glory for you in terms that you can understand.

What is glory?

Glory is a hard word to define.

Glory is easier to describe than to define.

It’s one of those words that you-know-it-when-you-see-it.

But how do you define it?

Here’s one way: It’s the beautiful greatness of God.

And saying, “glory to God” is announcing, proclaiming, declaring that God is amazingly great.

The Old Testament Hebrew word for glory is “Kavod.”

And it literally meant, “heavy.”

Like we say, “heavy, man.”

That’s awesome.

Rulers in the ancient world were the best fed. And the best fed got what? Heavy, right?

So, if you were great. Then you were great.

You had weight if you were great.


One of the things I like to pray for my kids is that Jesus would be BIG in their life.

I think that gets across this idea.

I pray that Jesus would be BIG in your life.

Or we could use the word “credit.”

We love the credits at the end of movie now.

Who gets the credit?

Who gets the BIGGEST credit?

Glory is credit.

To glory in something is to exult it so that it is BIG in your heart.

We see people glory when they enjoy a great football game or whatever you like.

They jump up and down, they yell, they sing, they raise their arms.  They do a little dance.

They glory. Something is big in their heart.

Glory, praise, magnification be to God in the highest.

The angels knew that something GLORIOUS, something tremendously great had happened on that first Christmas night.

And it took a whole army of angels to say it like it needed said.

Glory to God in the Highest!

Very often, you and I make the mistake of thinking that Christmas was all about us.  (And it was about us as we shall see in a second.)  But first and always foremost, we must recognize that everything exists for God’s glory–no less Christmas.

Christmas is all about the glory of God.

Christmas was the supreme revelation of God to humankind.
Christmas was God speaking to Man in the only language He really understands: the language of flesh and bones and blood.
Christmas was God’s passion for His glory breaking into this dark world to invade it with the Kingdom of His beloved Son.
Christmas was about God sending an atoning sacrifice for sins so that both God’s mercy and justice would be magnified in the salvation of sinners.
Christmas was and always will be first and foremost about GOD.

Angels we have heard on high sing: “Glory to God in the highest!”

Let me challenge you, this year, to make your Christmas all about the glory of God.

Make this year:

- a Christmas of worship
- a Christmas of praise
- a Christmas of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others
- a Christmas of giving in Jesus’ name to people who can’t give back to you
- a Christmas of focus on a close life-changing relationship with Christ
- a Christmas of glory to God in the highest!

AND...(secondly) the angels we have heard on high sang about PEACE.

Luke 2:14: “and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The angels’ song proclaimed that Christmas was also about peace.

The Prince of Peace had been born in Bethlehem.

You need to know that peace (in the Bible) is more than just the absence of conflict.

Peace in the Bible is a wholeness, a wellness, a rightness in relationships.  The Hebrew word is “Shalom.”

Peace is not just “I’m not mad at him.”  Peace is “He and I are right with one another.  We are reconciled.  We are together.  Everything is okay between us.”

And Jesus was born to bring that kind of peace.

To whom?  V.14 “Peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

I used to think that Jesus brings peace to all men.  But the NIV renders this verse perfectly, I think: “Peace to men on whom God’s favor rests.”

That means that Jesus brings peace to those:

- Whom God has chosen.
- Peace to the children of God.
- Peace to those who have exercised faith in Jesus Christ.

The saying is right: “No Jesus, No Peace.  Know Jesus, Know Peace.”

The angels Hear the Angels Sing: “On earth peace to men on whom [God’s] favor rests.”

Jesus brings (essentially) three kinds of peace.

The first is the foremost: Peace with God. [slide #5]

If you are not a trusting follower of Jesus Christ this morning, you are at war with God.  Let me say that again.  If you are not a trusting follower of Jesus Christ this morning, you are at war with God.

You may say that you don’t feel hate towards God.  But the Bible reveals the true nature of our hearts.  It says that those who reject the Son of God reject God the Father, as well.  You are His enemy.

And if you are at war with God, you are going to lose.

John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”

But Hear the song of these angels!  Peace is now possible between you and God.  The baby born in Bethlehem was born to die as a ransom for our sinful rebellion.

1 Peter 3:18:  “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Come to Christ this morning. Lay down your weapons and surrender to the Prince of Peace.

Maybe your heart has been prepared for this morning. This is your morning of decision.  This is the day that Christ becomes King in your life.

Decide now to trust Him.  Tell Him that you are sorry that you’ve sinned against Him and now want to belong to Him.  And He will not reject you.  He will receive you with open arms and bring you peace.

Romans 5:1 says those who are Christians now have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Is that you?  Become a trusting follower of Jesus Christ today.

The second kind of peace Jesus brings is peace with others. [slide #6]

This world is full of conflict.  Just watch the evening news and you’ll see that.  But Jesus’ birth brought powerful resources into this world to bring peace between sinful human beings.

Jesus has made it possible, so we need, by faith, to make it actual.

Are you living at peace with others this Christmas?

So often, it boils down to forgiveness.

Christmas is about being forgiven.  And being forgiven unleashes an amazing power within us to forgive others.

Is there someone you are in conflict with this Christmas? Make it right with them.

As much as it depends upon you, take advantage of Jesus’ peace and take Jesus’ peace to them.

The third kind of peace Jesus brings to those on whom God’s favor rests is inner peace.

Inner peace is basically the absence of fear.

If you are right with God, what place does fear have in your heart?

If God is for you, who can be against you?
If God is your helper, what can man do to you?
If God is at peace with you, what is worth worrying about?

The angel’s sweetly singing over the plains say that peace with God can be yours in Christ.  And if you have that then you have nothing to fear.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

What are you afraid of?

Cast it upon the One the angels sang about on the first Christmas morning.

“Glory to God in the highest [live for God’s glory this Christmas] and on earth peace [...with God, with others, without fear...peace] to men on whom [God’s] favor rests.”