Christmas Joy! Christmas Characters! Joy of the Shepherds, Joy of the Angels We Have Heard on High. Luke 2:8-15

Luke 2:8-15 World English Bible

There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. 11 For there is born to you today, in David’s city, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.” 13 Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army praising God, and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    on earth peace, good will toward men.”

15 When the angels went away from them into the sky, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

As you and I have read these scriptures each year, have we ever seriously noticed how the characters in the Christmas story tend to respond to angels when they show up? 

If we rewind to Luke 1:11-18, the angel came to Zacharias as he was going about his priestly duties in the temple and announced the pregnancy of Elizabeth, his wife who has long been barren of child and is beyond her child bearing years.

Zacharias was initially afraid, but then almost immediately settled back down to fulfill his responsibilities.

Then in response to the angelic announcement, he seemed to casually brush the announcement aside incredulously asking; “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” (verse 18)

It seems that the angel expected Zacharias to suddenly raise up, “jump for joy,” start running around the temple telling everyone, everywhere of his good news.

Zacharias expresses his disbelief with a loud “harrumph,” basically telling the angel to go back to where ever the angel came from and to “leave me alone!”

To which the angel replied – “because you have disbelieved, you will have no voice to speak to anyone until the time of your son’s birth. then you will sing!”

When his wife Elizabeth had given birth to their son, John – Zacharias had his voice restored and then indeed did sing his prophetic song …. Luke 1:67-79

If we rewind to Luke 1:30 when the angel Gabriel visits Mary, he tells her, “do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Mary said, “so be it!”

Here, in Luke 2, we read that these rough tough shepherds are instantly “filled with fear” at the sight of an angel and are quickly told to “fear not…”

Angels play an important role throughout the entire birth narra­tive of Jesus.

An angel visits Zechariah to announce the coming of John, who would prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry (Luke 1:11-20).

An angel appears to Mary to announce the coming of Jesus, the Son of God (Luke 1:28-38).

An angel appears to Joseph in a dream, urging him to stay with Mary because she is carrying the baby Jesus, who will “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Then, when Jesus is actually born and an angel announces his birth, a crowd of angels appears, lighting up the night sky in the fields near Bethlehem.

“A great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God. . . .” This was no simple birth announcement—the Savior of the world had come!

“Angels We Have Heard On High” tells the story in a beautifully lyrical way.

And the refrain picks up the angels’ song, using the Latin phrase “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” which means “Glory to God in the highest.”

The angels could not contain their praise.

As we celebrate Christmas this season, we are reminded of God’s great love for us in the birth of Jesus.

Like the angels, we too have the opportunity to burst into praise. And let’s invite others to join us as we give glory to God, for the Savior has come!

With all of these angelic proclamations of “Good News!” and “Great Joy!”

This should just maybe make us wonder why they were initially frightened?

Maybe viewing angels as cute, cuddly versions of cupid is completely wrong.

If we scan the the scope of scripture, it appears that whenever angels showed up on the scene they were on a mission to bring a message from God; quite often to announce, that is “open wide the can” of the good news of God’s judgement.

Some type of serious destruction often followed their arrival.

Luke writes that as this angel is sharing the news of Jesus’ birth with the shepherds, that suddenly, a “multitude of the heavenly host appears.”

For some reason, this multitude is often displayed as a white robed angelic choir, sometimes with song books in hand.

Ironically, the word “host” gives a radically different picture

https://www.blueletterbible.org/web/luk/2/13/t_conc_975013

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4756/web/tr/0-1/

— it’s translated from the Greek word stratia, and literally means a military encampment or a band of soldiers.

This was not a choir of cupids but an angelic army straight from heaven.

God had sent His army to announce that the Messiah had arrived and the rescue mission for humanity had begun.

This army had no intention of dethroning an arrogant Caesar in Rome or removing a corrupt High Priest in Jerusalem.

They weren’t about to wipe out the Roman army or restore Israel as a world power.

They had arrived to announce “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger”— an undeniably unexpected way for God’s rescue mission to begin.

Why do you think God sent an angelic army to announce the birth of Jesus?

The good news this angelic choir delivered was for ALL humanity.

For God loved the whole world so much that His gave His only begotten Son into the world, not to condemn but to be the ONE sacrifice for the sin of the world –

Not Judgment!

Not Condemnation!

But unconditional, undeserved LOVE so that everyone in the world who would believe on Him would not remain at enmity with God, but would be forgiven of their sin, regain fellowship with God, the Father and receive life everlasting.

This message of goodwill to all men, is particularly remembered when we celebrate the birth of Immanuel – God with us, God within us – recalling the beautiful story of a young virgin, her espoused husband, entrusted with the upbringing of God’s only begotten Son – Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

But the true message that was shared on that ordinary Bethlehem hillside, was that these extraordinary good tidings which spoke of joy to mankind, peace on earth were for a particular group of people – the Shepherds – men of good will!

The good tidings of great joy and lasting peace about which the angels sang, were for MEN OF GOODWILL.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men – the MEN, with whom God is pleased. Peace on earth to people who enjoy God’s favour.” 

We read that on earth there will be peace… among men of goodwill.

God has promised peace to men with whom the Lord is well-pleased – those that are saved by grace through faith in Christ.

Although the gospel message these angels shared continues to be available to ALL men, only those that enjoy goodwill before the Lord, by believing on the infant Immanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, and trusting in the name of the only begotten Son of God for the forgiveness of sins, will enjoy the peace on earth that this heavenly choir proclaimed.

Only they will discover the joy of the Lord in their hearts and peace with God in their lives.

Although the message of salvation was for all people –

the Messiah had to be Jewish.

He had to be the Son of God, born of a Jewish virgin, in the little town of Bethlehem, as a descendent of David and Abraham.

He had to fulfil these and numerous other prophecies to fulfil Scripture, and thus He became qualified in two distinct areas

1) as Messiah of Israel and

2) Saviour of the world.

Christ came to fulfil both the Law and the prophets and not one prophetic scripture relating to Christ’s first advent was broken – and every prophecy relating to His second coming will likewise be fulfilled, to the glory of God.

Although this extraordinary good news which was delivered by the army of angels is open to ALL who will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ – nowhere in Scripture is it specifically taught that peace on earth is “for all men.”

Peace with God and the favour of God comes by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

Peace WITH God is received when one is justified by faith.

The peace OF God within and peace ON earth, during Christ’s millennial reign, is only given to – men of goodwill.

Only those that trust in the name of the only begotten Son of the Father are identified in this verse as, “men of goodwill.”

John 14:19-31World English Bible

19 Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more; but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 One who has my commandments and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, what has happened that you are about to reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words. The word which you hear isn’t mine, but the Father’s who sent me. 25 I have said these things to you while still living with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, I give to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. 28 You heard how I told you, ‘I go away, and I come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I said ‘I am going to my Father;’ for the Father is greater than I. 29 Now I have told you before it happens so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world comes, and he has nothing in me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, even so I do. Arise, let’s go from here.

Come, and let us arise and join with Jesus, the author, perfecter of our faith!

Come, let us join our voices and our lives with that angelic army, with that angelic chorus, and hearken unto souls that are dead in their sins the truth.

Let us hearken unto the song of the angels, tell all who are at enmity with God,

the extraordinary good news of the gospel of grace – that Christ died for their sins, and rose again.. so that ALL who believe on Him would not perish, but receive peace with God and will be granted the peace of God in their heart.

Only those who have been saved by grace, will be among the joyful congregation witnessing the glory of the coming of our Prince of Peace, when He finally comes to set up His everlasting Kingdom – when true peace on earth will be governed in righteousness, Jesus is crowned King of kings and Lord of lords.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, Giver of every good and perfect gift. Thank you for Immanuel, thy Son! Thank you for the Host of Angels with their message of the coming good news. Let us hearken unto their song of peace to those for whom You have found favor. Thank You for the revelation of your Son to your biblical servants, and their ancient responses which have set the best example of faithfulness for all generations to come.

Thank You that I have peace with God, and as Your born-again child, that I have received Your goodwill and grace, not only in this age but in the ages to come. Thank You that because I am positioned in Christ and clothed in His righteousness, I am identified with Him, have found favour in Your sight, and the peace of God in my heart. I know that without Jesus there is nothing I could have done to warrant peace with You, for I acknowledge that I am a sinner, deserving of death – but glory to God in the highest, that peace has been granted to men with whom You are pleased.

Beloved Immanuel, beloved God with us and within us, Dear Jesus, may we celebrate your birth by rejoicing and joining voices with others in singing your praise. Amen.

Praise Your holy name that both peace with God and the peace of God, is available to who place their faith in the only begotten Son of God, in Whose name I pray, AMEN.

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Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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