13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Today’s passage include the first Christmas Carol, the song of the angels.
Yesterday we focused on the grace of God seen in the fact that God sent an angel to proclaim the Savior’s birth to shepherds. But it was only one angel for a short time as suddenly there was a “great company of the heavenly host.” The huge choir of angels showed up not to announce the birth – that had already been done – but to burst into jubilant praise for God because of the birth.
In Isaiah 6, the prophet had a vision of the heavenly throne room. One of the features of the throne room is the continuous praise of the angels. John’s visions in Revelation include the same feature. Heaven is depicted as a place of ongoing celestial praise.
What happened in the skies above these fields is that a bit of that heavenly praise burst forth onto the earth. The angels are continually praising the Almighty in heaven. But now the Almighty is also on the earth, and so they show up to praise Him here.
What is the content of that praise: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Two things: Glory for God, and peace for the earth.
They are glorifying God at the birth of the Savior because God is showing His gracious heart, who He really is, by taking this step. The promise God made in the garden to Adam and Eve to undo the curse and bring redemption is moving forward. God has entered the cursed creation to redeem and restore it.
And the result will be peace for humanity. This is not peace in the sense of calmness or lack of conflict. Peace in the song of the angels refers to the Hebrew word “shalom” which means wholeness and healing. The angels are praise God for the anticipated result of His mission, which is shalom for all creation, most notably restored relationship between God and fallen humanity. Shalom for the world means the removing of the curse and all the effects of the fall.
This is the “peace” of the new creation which will come in fullness at the resurrection. But the peace of a restored relationship with God is ours now through faith in Him. This is His gift for “those on whom his favor rests,” which is another way of saying “those on whom He has showered His grace.”
There are many ways to respond to the gift of the Savior at Christmas: Decorations, gift-giving, feasting, serving. The angels in this passage remind us of the chief response: To praise the Lord, giving glory to God for His gift of peace in Christ.
Praise be to you, O Lord, for sending us a Savior! Praise be to You for giving his peace with you by Your grace!
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