The Angel’s Song
– Peace on Earth
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is one of the most familiar and most profound Christmas Carols ever written. It is filled with theological truth. The song was written by Charles Wessley around the time of the American Revolutionary War. He wrote 6,500 hymns!
Very few Christmas carols were written in the 17th and 18th centuries because the PURITANS forbid the celebration of the pagan holiday. Much like today, festivities and secularism had replaced the celebration of Christ’s birth.
The song speaks of the ANGEL’S ANNOUNCEMENT to the Shepherds of Bethlehem
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King; peace on earth, and mercy mild—God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies; with th’ angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!”
Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold Him come, offspring of the virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the God-head see; hail th’ incarnate Deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.”
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.”
The “ANGEL’S SONG” is the PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT of the birth of Christ!
It is the shortest of the Songs of Christmas which we are studying, but it is the most familiar, and the most profound! In this song, the gospel is announced to the entire world, reminding us that we don’t have to fear, because God has come to us.
The Recipients of Good News.
In those days, Shepherds were honored, but they were common. I Thought of wearing a shepherd’s costume today, but we see this romantically and forget that shepherds were commoners and poor.
David was a shepherd. 1 Samuel 16, David is tending sheep.
David LED ISRAEL like a shepherd. Psalm 78:72 “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”
The Messiah will lead like a shepherd. Ezekiel 34:23 “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.”
God loves his people like a shepherd. Isaiah 40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
Shepherds were COMMON. They were rough characters. Quick to pick a fight, use crude language, but they would go out of their way to help you if you needed it.
They were the lower class socially. Smelly. Poor.
They were overlooked. Shepherds were in every community.
Shepherds did not attend Temple services. NOT church-type people. They were Ceremonially unclean.
A Shepherd would be a common person today. Not wealthy, not super educated, a little rough around the edges, wise in the world, tired of not getting ahead.
We learn from the RECIPIENTS of this announcement that the good news is for ALL PEOPLE, not just the privileged people.
The MESSENGER – The “Herald Angel”
Likely, this is Gabriel, the angel who announced the birth of John the baptist and Jesus. This name is special to me because my grandson Gabriel is named after the Christmas Angel because of his birthday on December 28.
The name Gabriel means “Man of God”
Gabriel is one of two angels mentioned by name in the Bible.
Really, he is the MESSENGER angel. Every time Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible, he is delivering a message.
To Daniel. Daniel 8:16
“And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.” (Vision of the Ram and Goat)
“while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.” (Vision of the 70 weeks)
To Zeachariah. Luke 1:19 “The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”
To Mary. Luke 1:26
“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,”
One day, an angel, possibly Gabriel, will announce Christ’s return to earth! 1 Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
Now, Luke 1:10 does not mention Gabriel by name, but it does mention that the GLORY of GOD was revealed when this angel appeared. Because we know that Gabriel “stands in the presence of God and is in full view of God’s glory, (Luke 1:19), we are led to believe that it was Gabriel who appeared to the shepherds revealing God’s glory. It is consistent to consider that Gabriel was the angel chosen by God to annunciate the good news to all of the Christmas participants.
God sent his most trusted angel to bring the message to humanity!
The Message –
The GLORY of GOD has RETURNED – This time, it will not leave!
Luke 2:9 “The glory of the Lord shone around them.” This is Shekeniah Glory, the PRESENCE of GOD!
OT Appearance of Glory
The CLOUD. Exodus 16:10 “While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.”
Fire on Horeb. Exodus 24:17 “To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.”
The Tabernacle. Exodus 40:34 “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”
The GLORY had departed for 600 years!
“Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side”
“Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord.”
“Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim.”
“While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.”
“The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.”
The angel says, Don’t be afraid (Luke 2:10). Shepherds were BRAVE men! They were not idle talkers. They were rough outdoors men. They would fight off bandits, wolves, other predators, they had to live outside during rain and cold. Shepherds had to herd and carry sheep, shear sheep, occasionally search for lost sheep. They had to know their way around. So, the angelic visit must have been terrifying!
The angel delivers the Good News! The gospel.
We are filled with BAD NEWS.
Yesterday, a local church burned nearly to the ground. In His Presence worship center received this bad news just hours before their Christmas Sunday service!
We read about crime, War, Economic crisis, the “Fiscal cliff.”
The gospel is GOOD NEWS.
There is Glory in heaven because Jesus came. “Glory to God in the highest”
Here the “highest” refers to the highest heavens (cf. 19:38), not to the highest degree.
(Robert H. Stein, vol. 24, Luke, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 109.
When Jesus came into the world, God’s glory was advanced.
God’s Favor on EARTH
because Jesus came. “Peace to men on whom his favor rests”
The PEACE is God’s peace.
It is given to those who find God’s favor.
“FAVOR” = something given by God.
“”The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.””
“But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
“PEACE” = Salvation! Acts 10:36 “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”
Robert Stein writes, “Peace” refers here to the fullness of blessing which the Savior/Christ/Lord brings and is essentially a synonym for salvation (cf. Acts 10:36).
Robert H. Stein, vol. 24, Luke, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 109.
DID the whole world enjoy peace just because Jesus came? NO.
War, famine, still abound today. Every century from Christ forward has grown WORSE!
But God’s Peace comes to those who receive it.
Pascal’s Night of Fire
Blaise Pascal scientist and Mathematician in the 1600’s.
When he died in 1662 his servant found a small piece of parchment sewn into his coat. At the top of the paper Pascal had drawn a cross. Underneath the cross he wrote:
In the year of the Lord 1654, Monday, November 23
From about half-past ten in the evening until half-past twelve.
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob
Not of philosophers nor of the scholars.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy, Peace.
God of Jesus Christ,
My God and thy God.
He is to be found only by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the soul of man.
“Righteous Father, the world hath not know thee, but I have know thee.”
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. Jesus Christ.
I have fallen away: I have fled from Him,
denied Him, crucified him.
May I not fall away forever.
We keep hold of him only by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
I will not forget Thy word. Amen.
Pascal found PEACE with GOD. He stored his record of it in the lining of his coat, close to his heart. For eight years he took care to sew and unsew it every time he changed his coat.
Adapted from RC Sproul Doubt and Assurance (Baker Books, 1993) and Charles Kummel, The Galileo Connection (IVP, 1986)[
Pascal was a brilliant man, but he writes, “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob
Not of philosophers nor of the scholars.” Pascal experienced all of the knowledge of the world, but there was something that science could not give him. It was a personal relationship with God that could only come through Jesus.
The Question at Christmas is not whether Jesus was
born in Bethlehem. The question is whether he is born in you!