to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.Ē
can count the number of hymns, songs and carols that echo the gospel
proclamation of the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem?
God only knows how many voices have joined in to sing the angelic
song in Christian congregations throughout the ages.
The church gives glory to her God.
That's called doxology. The
portion of the liturgy is called the Gloria in Excelsis.
It is the hymn with which we celebrate Christmas every Sunday.
ďGlory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill
give glory to God. But what
can you give to the One who already has everything?
Itís not as if God needs anything from us.
Does He not have all the glory he needs, indeed all the glory
there is? He is, after all,
God. Still, we glorify God
because that is how we confess our faith.
By this faithful confession we show that we are Christians.
What is the faith we confess?
For what, specifically do we glorify God? What is it about God and what He has done that brings us to
praise him and ascribe glory to his name?
glorify God for the beauty of his creation.
I glorify him for the beauty of the north woods whether in summer
or winter. We glorify God
for the vastness of his power as we watch the cold winter wind blow over
the white fields of snow. We
glorify God for governing His world with such perfect care.
The rising and setting of the sun, the turning of seasons, the
times of rain and the snow and clear skies are all under His fatherly
care. And it is all for our
benefit! We look up at the
constellations in the sky at night when there are no city lights or moon
to obscure their immensity. We
stand in awe of our God who gave all this to us. It is ours, for the world and all that is in it is Godís
gracious gift to the people He loves.
We glorify God for giving us children and faithful husbands and
wives, for Christian friends who remember us every year, even though we
seldom see them, for health, for leisure, for the talents we need to
make a living and care for those we love.
all of these things can be lost and frequently are.
Godís creation becomes polluted, the trees die and the sky is
filled with poison. And
what can we say to parents whose children die tragic deaths, or, which
is even more tragic, turn their backs on the truth they were given?
What can we say to the Christian husband or wife whose spouse has
been unfaithful? Or to
those whom friends have betrayed? Whose
good health has been replaced by terminal disease?
Who are celebrating Christmas without the one nearest and dearest
to them because God took him away?
Can you glorify God in sincere Christian faith this morning when
you have lost what you loved? When
you have suffered betrayal and pain?
When your future is so much in doubt that your emotions are
riding a roller coaster of uncertainty, fear, anger and sadness?
you can, Christian, yes you can. You
can glorify God with the song of the angels, for their words speak to
you of a gift that God will never Ė can never Ė take away.
You can glorify God for what he will always give to you, even if
you were to lose everything else in this world that you love.
can glorify God for meeting your deepest need, your need for His peace
and goodwill. That is why
the angels adored Him. That
is why they sang their song. They
did not glorify Him for the beauty of His creation or for the love and
devotion people show to people or for the good health and financial
security that we all desire. They glorified God for sending a Savior to this sinful world.
They, like we, were given to know the mystery of the incarnation
when God the Son became a human being.
And in receiving the revelation of Godís incarnation, in
knowing that the Almighty God assumed the nature of man, they made a
correct and biblical theological deduction and preached a wonderful
sermon to those shepherds watching over their sheep at night.
Listen to the angelís sermon, for God preaches it to you.
Listen to their sound theological deduction, for it is not mere
angelic speculation. It is
rather divine logic that penetrates your heart and brings you peace.
The angels deduced that if God the Son has really taken on
Himself a human nature, then God is surely at peace with all human
beings. Why else would He
do such a thing? Think
about it. Why would God
become a man, unless it were to bring peace to us and show us His
goodwill? There could be no
other conceivable reason. The
angelís theology was inspired by God and has been sung countless times
by Godís church, as she sings, not just Gloria in Excelsis Deo, glory
be to God on high, but also, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.
glorify God for becoming flesh because the incarnation proves not just a
theoretical possibility that perhaps God will be gracious to us and
someday bring us peace but that God has already brought us peace.
Note how Godís glory in heaven is joined to the peace he brings
to earth. And take this to
heart, O Christian, that this peace is for us, all of us, and the proof
of it is in the manger. Listen
to how the angelís theological deduction is expressed in a great
Christmas hymn by Paul Gerhardt.
we still dread God's displeasure
he who himself imparted
our blessed Lord and Maker
rhetorical question after another, and the answer to every one of them
is NO! God would not have
taken on Himself our very nature. He
would not have joined the human race as a baby.
He would not have chosen to live, to suffer and to die for us as
a man if He hated us, if He were bent on punishing us, if He did not
love us. The incarnation of
God, the fact that God was in the manger and on the cross, proves beyond
a shadow of a doubt that God has come to you in peace.
And from this fact you can glorify God this morning.
Whatever your loss, even those things that are your own fault,
especially those pains and miseries that you have brought upon yourself
by your own sins, whatever they are, they cannot silence the sermon of
the angels to you: God is at peace with you, Godís favor rests on you.
You can, right now, face that terrible verdict of Godís law
that tells you that you do indeed deserve all the loss you have
suffered, all the pain, all the sorrow.
You can tell Godís law to be silent and to stop accusing you
because your God was lying in that manger and that means that God is not
angry with you, instead he brings you peace.
know that the greatest glory of God is in loving those who don't deserve
His love. It is in bringing
peace to those who have declared war on Him.
It is in showing his goodwill, His favor to those who have hated
Him and their neighbors, indeed have embraced that hatred in stubborn
wickedness. These are the people to whom is given the Word of peace.
That Word, lying in the manger, that Word, nailed to the cross,
that Word, speaking peace to His disciples as He has risen from the
dead, that Word tells you that your God is at peace with you.
That Word is the ground of your faith, because He has invaded
your sinful heart and set it free.
He has brought you peace by bringing forgiveness to you.
That Word remains the ground of our faith and the source of our
praise. That Word is the Word made flesh full of grace and truth.
we sing the Gloria. We sing
it week after week, and it never loses its beauty.
We glorify God for meeting our need.
We glorify God for redeeming our loss.
We glorify God for making peace with us.
We glorify God for joining us, in our flesh and blood, forever.
And as his goodwill toward us lasts forever, we will glorify him
forever. Listen to the
great doxology penned by St. Paul, the Apostle, in his Epistle to the
is glorified in heaven by bringing His peace and goodwill to us here on
earth. This is the meaning
of the Gloria in Excelsis that is our privilege to sing here Sunday
after Sunday. This is why
we will keep coming back to sing it.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus