Luke 2:14

Sermon preached on December 27, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Recently I was reading the book
Knowing Christ, by Mark Jones. The beginning section of the chapter on the Incarnation was called, (p. 25)

"Heaven kissed earth."

That's a remarkable title. It's one that can also be applied to our text. I can't think of a better one to describe the angel's message and the choir of angels singing to the shepherds. The shepherds witnessed something absolutely extraordinary. There were a few instances in the Old Testament where angels appeared to people. When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah he sent two angels to tell Abraham about it. These same two angels went to Sodom to warn Lot and his family to leave. When Jacob was leaving the Promised Land, fleeing from his brother Esau, he slept and had a dream and saw a stairway resting on earth, with its top reaching to heaven and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28) Later, when he left to return to the Promised Land, and fled from Laban, angels of God met him. (Genesis 32:1) Micaiah the prophet, when he prophesied about the doom of King Ahab, said that he saw, (2 Chronicles 18:18)

"the LORD sitting on his throne
with all the host of heaven
standing on his right and on his left."

In Isaiah 6 we read that Isaiah the prophet saw the Lord seated on his throne and above Him were seraphs calling to one another, (Isaiah 6:3)

"Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory."

In the book of Revelation the apostle John had visions of heaven and some of them involved the heavenly host praising and glorifying God around the throne.

All those are wonderful, stunning scenes. But here, the shepherds not only are told by one angel about the birth of the Savior of the world—but many others then appear with Him and praise God. Nothing quite like it that has ever happened before or since. It must have been incredible to the shepherds. After the shepherds were told about the birth of Jesus many of the heavenly host appeared to them praising God. They sang, (Luke 2:14)

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men
on whom his favor rests."

What words! This morning we're going to look at the first part of their praised. They sang,

"Glory to God in the highest…"

There is a parallelism in their song that helps us to understand it. J. Reiling and J. L. Swellengrebel write, (A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Luke, UBS Translator's Handbooks; Accordance electronic ed. New York: United Bible Societies, 1971)

"the parallelism between the various parts of each line is very close… 'glory' corresponds with… 'peace', … 'in the highest' with… 'on earth', and 'to God' with… 'among men.' "

Thus Lenski writes,

'the highest',… goes with theo [God] as indicating the place where God is".

So the thing we see here is that

the birth of Jesus called for God to be praised in Heaven.

This might seem to be strange at first. One might expect the angels to say that God should be praised on earth. Indeed, the message of the angel was all about the implications of Jesus' coming for people on earth. He said, (Luke 2:10–11)

"Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David
a Savior has been born to you;
he is Christ the Lord."

The coming of Jesus had tremendous implications for human beings. It changed everything. Because Jesus came, there is hope for mankind. Mankind was dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1) Romans 3:23 tells us that,

"for all have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God,"

Romans 6:23 tells us,

"For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Jesus came as a Savior. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He died in our place. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

"God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us,
so that in him we might
become the righteousness of God."

He paid for our sins. He washed them away. He came to save sinners. That is truly wonderful news.

The coming of Jesus also had great implications for this old earth on which we live. The earth was created for God's glory—but sin changed all that. To a great degree Adam's sin ruined this earth. But the coming of Jesus has changed that too. In Romans 8:19–21 the apostle Paul wrote,

"The creation waits in eager expectation
for the sons of God to be revealed.
For the creation was subjected
to frustration, not by its own choice,
but by the will of the one who subjected it,
in hope that the creation itself
will be liberated from its bondage
to decay and brought into
the glorious freedom of the children of God."

The creation is waiting for us to be revealed—for the Day when Jesus will come again, when we will be make like Jesus. There will be a new earth. Because of Jesus' work, this old earth is going to be burned up and purified. It is going to be make new. As we are told in 2 Peter 3:13,

"But in keeping with his promise
we are looking forward to
a new heaven and a new earth,
the home of righteousness."

Jesus' coming has tremendous implications for people on earth—for this earth.

But that's not what the angels sing about. The angels tell us that because of the birth of Jesus—God should be glorified in heaven.

Philip Graham Ryken writes, (The Incarnation in the Gospels, p. 110)

"what makes this song different from the others is that it was sung by a chorus of angels. It was not a hymn that rose up from the earth, but an anthem that came down from heaven. For this reason, the Gloria gives a fuller revelation of the true divine glory of Jesus Christ. God the Son had always enjoyed the adoration of angels. From eternity past, those sinless creatures had worshiped him with perpetual praise. But now God was sending his Son into the world, where he would be despised and rejected unto death for the salvation of a lost and fallen race. This was the most glorious demonstration that God had ever made of his grace. Therefore, it was only right for him to received the highest praise. In the words of J. C. Ryle, 'Now is come the highest degree of glory to God, by the appearing of His Son Jesus Christ in the world. He by His life and death on the cross will glorify God's attributes,—justice, holiness, mercy, and wisdom,—as they never were glorified before.'"

One other point is that Jesus needed to be received with praise on earth.

Human beings were so blind, so sinful that we would fail to praise Jesus like He should be praised. He needed to be praised highly so God sent angels from heaven to earth to praise Him. It would have been too great an injustice if the coming of Jesus was not met with praise. I think there's a parallel to Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke His disciples because they were praising Him. Jesus said, (Luke 19:40

"I tell you, if they keep quiet,
the stones will cry out."

The apostle Peter wrote about Jesus' salvation in 1 Peter 1:10–12,

"Concerning this salvation,
the prophets, who spoke of the grace
that was to come to you,
searched intently and with the greatest care,
trying to find out the time
and circumstances to which
the Spirit of Christ in them
was pointing when he predicted
the sufferings of Christ and
the glories that would follow.
It was revealed to them that
they were not serving themselves but you,
when they spoke of the things
that have now been told you by those
who have preached the gospel
to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.
Even angels long to look into these things."

When the angels first heard of the work of Christ, that He would die in the places of human sinners—they were astounded and amazed. These perfect creatures, who never sinned and who were not even the recipients of salvation (Hebrews 2:16)—they longed to know more. As the Old Testament prophets revealed more and more of what the work of Christ would consist of—it was not enough for the angels. They longed to look more into these things.

Then when Jesus was born in Bethlehem—many of the heavenly angels, came down to earth and showed themselves to the shepherds. They burst out in song—

"Glory to God in the highest…"

R.C. H. Lenski writes,

"This praise of God, which is based on the birth of the Messiah, is not a wish, much less a prayer, but a most positive assertion. 'Glory' is the radiant shining forth of any or of all the divine attributes—here of the truth (in keeping his promise), power, (1:35), and grace of God in sending the Messiah."

William Hendriksen writes, (Luke, p. 155)

"the words of Luke 2:14 are above all else an outpouring of adoration. One might perhaps say that, having become informed about the Savior's birth, a birth under such circumstances and with such a self-sacrificing purpose, these angels never before had been so thrilled! No wonder, therefore, that from the bottom of their hearts they shout:'Glory to God in the Highest!'They desire that all creation shall praise God."

The angels are inviting the shepherds to join in the praise that God deserved. Joel B. Green see the angel's song as, , (Luke (NICNT; p. 137)

"as an invitation to join in glorifying God…"

R.C.H. Lenski writes,

"All heaven declares the glory of God as shining forth in the incarnation of his Son."

The song of the angels remind me of the final verses of Psalm 103. David writes, (Verses 20–22)

"Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord,
all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, O my soul."

David knew that all creation should be praising God and urged them to do it. The angels who appeared to the shepherds just after Jesus was born, did the same.

Now it is very important for us to grasp this truth. People look at all the suffering in the world and they say,

"How can their be a loving God?"

What nonsense! What a cop-out. They willingly reject the good news of Jesus, they willingly close their eyes to the truth of the angel's proclamation, the incredible love of God to sinners—they ignore it totally and they don't praise God for it—instead they heap abuse on Him.

If you're like that you really need to open your eyes. You really need to look at the love of God that was displayed in the coming and work of Jesus and turn from your sin. God really is doing something about the suffering in the world. In fact, in sending Jesus, He is doing something so glorious, so astounding, so incredible, so decisive that it changed everything. Jesus came to save sinners. Jesus came to redeem this old world and make it the home of righteousness.

But the other glorious thing about it is the cost. Notice how the angel mentioned the humble birth of Jesus. In verse 12 the angel said,

"This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped
in cloths and lying in a manger."

The angels knew about the great condescension of their Lord. They knew that He was coming in humility, to die. They knew the truth of what Peter said in Acts 3 even better than Peter did. Peter preached to the people of Jerusalem after the Lord had healed a crippled man through him at Solomon's Colonnade. Peter said, (Acts 3:13–15)

"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
the God of our fathers,
has glorified his servant Jesus.
You handed him over to be killed,
and you disowned him before Pilate,
though he had decided to let him go.
You disowned the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
You killed the author of life,
but God raised him from the dead."

The heavenly angels knew that they were created by Jesus. They knew how He upheld all creation. They knew something of His righteousness and holiness. They knew that He was the One that gave them life.

That Jesus should stoop to become human, to be subject to hunger, pain; to think that Jesus should come to identify with us and take our sin upon Himself, and allow Himself to be crushed by our sins and die for them—these things are the most glorious that could ever be!

Of course anyone who is saying,

"How can their be a loving God?"

is wondering why they don't see the full effects of such a glorious salvation. After all, that's what they're complaining about and using as an argument against the existence of God. But Peter lists that argument and shows the folly of it in 2 Peter 3:4-9. Peter says that scoffers will say,

"Where is this 'coming' he promised?
Ever since our fathers died,
everything goes on as it has
since the beginning of creation.
But they deliberately forget
that long ago by God's word
the heavens existed and the earth
was formed out of water and by water.
By these waters also the world
of that time was deluged and destroyed.
By the same word the present
heavens and earth are reserved for fire,
being kept for the day of judgment
and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not forget this one thing,
dear friends: With the Lord a day
is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,
as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance."

What this means is that if you don't believe in Jesus you need to go to Him. You need to see the glorious things that God has done. John Nolland writes, (Luke 1–9:20, WBC 35A; p. 108)

"Since… 'peace,' is what God has achieved…in the birth of the child, with…, 'glory,' too we must be speaking of the achievement of God. The sense is best represented by supplying an initial 'there is'. In a use a little different from that in v 9, the word 'glory,' here refers to God's good reputation as in Isa 43:7; 48:11; Jer 13:11, 'in the highest [parts],' … The heavenly visitors indicate that heaven is impressed by what God has achieved, 'peace,' is here the OT shalom. It is not simply an inner disposition or the absence of war, but evokes a whole social order of well-being and prosperity, security and harmony… In Isa 9:5–6, 52:7, etc, and cf Acts 10:36, peace is specially linked with the coming messianic salvation."

Philip Graham Ryken writes, (The Incarnation in the Gospels, p. 111)

"Imagine what joy they [the angels] had in worshiping the newborn Christ and saying, 'Glory to God.' God was highly glorified in sending his Son to be our Savior. The Christmas angels saw this glory and revealed it to the shepherds so that we could see it too."

You who don't believe need to see it.

Now for everyone here,

if the birth of Jesus called forth praise among the host of angels from heaven to praise God—how much more should we, human beings, the recipients of that salvation—praise and serve God!

These angels praise God even though they weren't the ones that were saved by the coming of Jesus. How shameful for us that we aren't filled with joy and rejoicing whenever we think about our Savior and what He has done.

Darrell L. Bock writes, (Luke 1:1-9:50 BECNT; 220-221)

"In summary, the angelic praise contains two basic ideas: (1) the heavens [Luke 1:1–9:50, p. 221] rejoice and praise God for salvation's outworking and (2) the people to whom God draws near through Jesus will experience the harmony and benefits that God bestows on his own."

John Calvin wrote (Commentary on Luke),

"The angels begin with thanksgiving, or with the praises of God; for Scripture, too, everywhere reminds us, that we were redeemed from death for this purpose, that we might testify with the tongue, as well as by the actions of the life, our gratitude to God.Whenever our salvation is mentioned, we should understand that a signal has been given, to excite us to thanksgiving and to the praises of God."

Do you praise and glorify God as you ought? Of course not. Do it more and more. The coming of Jesus was a wonder, a wonder that changed everything for sinners. It turned our miserable nightmare into one of the best dream possible—life with God, with His glory forever. How thankful we ought to be.