Luke 2:8-14. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Maybe you’ve been asking, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” The angels tell us the answer. This greatest of angelic advents tells us two things about the arrival of God. Two things that happen at advent. 1) God receives the glory that he deserves. And 2) mankind receives the peace that we need.
Let’s start with our peace on earth.
Peace in the Jewish mindset is the very big concept of shalom. Shalom goes way beyond just an absence of conflict. It is a human flourishing that reaches into every part of life. Shalom was God’s intention for mankind from the beginning. Peace on earth was why he created. God made a world where man would thrive and find purpose, joy, and love in his serving and worshiping of God.
Advents are meant for shalom. God’s arrival is meant to restore peace on earth. Without God’s presence among us there is no flourishing, no progress, no peace in life. The advent of Jesus was the first step in restoring our shalom (more on that in a minute).
Glory to God.
There is no human shalom without the proper glorifying of God. Every angelic advent is about pointing us toward God in the highest. Is this because God is an egomaniac? No. In fact, God doesn’t need us to glorify him.
But we need to glorify him.
Read that again if you need to. God, the Trinity, doesn’t need us to worship him. He gets all the glory he needs within himself. But when God created us, he made us to be glory receivers and glory givers, just like himself. This is how we image God. When we fail to give glory to God in the highest we will fail to fulfill our purpose. We fail to have peace on earth.
Imagine a world where everyone properly glorified God? No more war, oppression, injustice, slavery, cruelty, or indifference. Imagine a marriage where both partners properly glorified God? Imagine a friendship? A workplace? A neighborhood? Can you imagine the shalom? John Lennon imagined peace coming from the elimination of God (imagine there’s no heaven…imagine all the people living for today). But the truth is that shalom only comes when we return all glory to God. That is the message of the angels. That is the message of Christmas.
The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds (1834), Thomas Cole (1801-1848).
How does God receive glory and man find peace? Is this a transaction that we work out with God? “If you glorify me I will bless you with shalom” That was the law. But here in Luke 2 we get the good news of great joy. How does God receive glory and man find peace? Only by an advent. Only by God coming to us as our Savior who is Christ the Lord.
The truth of the advent is that we would never figure out how to glorify and worship God on our own. God had to come to us and save us from the power and the penalty of our sin. Sin is a cancer of rebellion that has infected us since birth. It is that part of us that believes that we deserve all the glory. That life begins and ends with me. It is a destructive force within us that must be killed.
But our sin not only controls our lives and prevents the proper worship of God, it also makes us guilty before God. We all deserve the death penalty for our rebellion against him.
Jesus came to die for our sins. To take our place. He came to both forgive our sin penalty and remove sin’s power from inside of us. How? By giving us his own indwelling life. A life that one day will have no desire to sin. A life that will find shalom in the worship of God.
Yes, we each need a personal savior to remove and pardon our internal sin. But we also need a Christ, a messiah, a hero to save the day and destroy the force of evil that exists outside of us too. The force of evil that prevents our peace. The force of evil that steals glory from God.
The birth of Jesus set in motion the events that would lead to the eradication of evil from earth and restore shalom forever. First, our own personal sin must be removed and replaced with Christ’s life. But also, the surrounding kingdom of darkness had to be overthrown, the Dragon had to be slain, the final enemies of Sin and Death conquered. The powers of darkness, both internal and external, finally defeated by our great rescuer, our Christ, at his final advent.
The baby Jesus that came to save us is also the Lord of the universe. The holy infant tender and mild is God in the highest. He not only restores our proper worship; he is the object of our worship. He is our Lord. Our master. Our king. Our God.
But he is no despot. He is our Savior King. Unlike every other Lord in history, he does not demand our life. Rather he offers us his. His gospel makes no demand of us. It only gives to us. Our bondage to him is now by his freedom. Our obedience to him is now by his grace.
How can we be restored to our purpose? How can we give glory to God and find peace on earth? Only when God is pleased with us – on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.
Is God pleased with you today? If you are in Christ then you can answer with a confident, “YES.”
God’s shalom dwells in our hearts because, through our union with Christ, God is as pleased with us as he is with his Son. We have a Savior, a Christ, and a Lord that has given us his life. As this truth begins to sink in, you will begin to return all glory to God in the highest. And when you begin to glorify God, his peace will rule your heart this Christmas and all year long.
Can you imagine what it would look like if God’s shalom ruled your heart? How can you give glory to God today? Savior, Christ, Lord – which of these truths encourages you the most today? Which brings peace to your heart?
Can you hear the angel say to you “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy”?