The following is my manuscript of a sermon I preached at Edgewater Baptist Church in Chicago on Sunday, December 16, 2012. Click HERE if you would like to listen to the audio recording of this message.
A Challenging Text
Before us this morning is a bit of a challenging text. It is not challenging because it is difficult to understand or because there is some great controversies that could divide the church.
No…the challenge before us with this text of Scripture is its familiarity. We have heard this story so many times and for many of us they have sentimental value. And when we approach familiar passages and familiar themes in the bible we have this awful tendency to tune them out and assume that we have seen all that there is to see. So let’s ask God to protect us from making this mistake and wasting our time.
I would encourage you all to turn with me to Luke chapter 2. Our scripture text for this morning’s sermon comes from Luke 2:14.
Luke 2:14 – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
These words are pregnant with meaning and this morning I want to point out three reasons why we too should give praise to Jesus Christ.
1. We Should Praise THE SUPERIORITY of Christ Because….He Is Worshipped by Angels
Before we dive into the substance of this song and what is actually being sung let us first consider its setting.
Who is singing and where are the singing at?
I want to encourage you all in your own study of Scripture that I have found time and time again that some of the most profound insights I have gleaned from Scripture have come from some of the most basic of observations.
For example, the question who is doing the singing of this song is not a difficult question to answer. All we must do is simply look back at verse 13 and we see that:
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying….”
But when you read this verse what comes to mind? …. Because if you are not envisioning this scene as one of the most spectacular sights in all of Scripture, then you are not getting it.
Maybe its because of what Pastor Bill was saying last week and we have been scared by all the weak and pathetic artwork of angels that we have lost our sense of awe and wonder?
Angelology 101 – Three Truths About Angels
Let’s do a quick recap of Angelology 101 so that we are all on the same page. Let’s just consider 3 things we know to be true about angels in Scripture:
1) When these shepherds and Zachariah and Mary and several others throughout Scripture see just one angel they are all immediately terrified by the sight of it. So, then how much more terrifying would it have been to then see a whole host of angels.
2) It only took one angel to destroy all the first-born in Egypt and it only took one angel to destroy the whole army of Sannechrib of Assyria in just one night. My guess is that most of us need to admit that we have sorely underestimated just how powerful these creatures really are.
3) In Isaiah 6:4 we are told that the foundations of the temple doorways shook when just two angels were calling out to one another “Holy, Holy, Holy is The Lord of hosts.” Don’t you see, that if Isaiah says that the sound of their voices could shake what would have been in his mind a pretty formidable structure, OH what must have the sound have been like in the field that night when the Shepherds heard a whole host of them praising God.
But let us not miss the main point of this text because no matter how majestic this sight must have been, no matter how powerful and terrifying these angels truly are, and no matter how loud the sounds of their voices were …. they are nothing compared to the superior majesty and power of The Lord Jesus Christ.
As the writer of Hebrews said,
“So Jesus Christ became much more superior than all the angels, just as the name he inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are my son?…Now to which of the angels has he ever said: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies Your footstool.”
For there is only one Lord and King over all the universe and all of these angels in Luke chapter 2 are praising Him and Him alone.
Should we not conclude that if these sinless, powerful and simply amazing beings are filled with joy and praise to God because of the gospel, then how much more should we sinful, weak and lowly beings be all the more staggered by it?
Doesn’t it make you look forward all the more to heaven when you and I will be living with these holy angels and joining with them in their chorus of praise to our great God?
That is our first point. We should praise THE SUPERIORITY of Christ because he is worshipped by angels.
2. We Should Praise THE HUMILITY of Christ Because….He Comes to Shepherds
In our first point we considered who was singing this song and in this next point we need to consider where the angels are at when they are singing this song of praise.
Just look at the surrounding verses and we see in verse 8 that they came to shepherds who were out in a field keeping watch over their flock.
But why does this matter? What is the significance of where this song takes place?
Everything about the context and setting of this song is teaching us that the God who was rich for our sakes became poor.
Have you ever thought about the fact that because God is completely sovereign over everything he could have easily made sure that Jesus was born in a wealthier family? Or that he could have worked it out for Mary & Joseph to have a place to stay in the inn?
Of course he could have, but instead he purposefully and intentionally planned for the son of God to come on the earth as weak and poor little baby who was welcomed by some shepherds whom would have been considered as outcasts in that society.
I think it would be good for us to conclude from these things that the reason Christ was born in a manager and not a great palace was so that even the lowly shepherds would know that this savior had come for the likes of them.
Maybe the next time you look at a manager scene during this Christmas you will realize that the God of the bible has come down so far and so low that there is not one single person who would ever be able to say…”He may be able to save others, but he cannot save me.”
Don’t you realize that there are no obstacles in him that are keeping you from him? If there is an obstacle that is getting in the way of you coming to The Lord Jesus for salvation, then it can only be in you because it is certainly not in him!
The way to come to God is to bring nothing. If you try to come God with your hands full, with a big long resume of all the great things you have done, with a laundry list of excuses for all the bad choices you have made, then God will have nothing to do with you because he opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Its like the saying goes: “In order to receive Christ all you need is nothing.” But sadly there is a lot of people who do not have it.
Do you? … Do you know what it means to have nothing? Do you realize that you have not just done some bad things, but you have offended a holy and righteous God?
In Romans chapter 5 the bible explains that our sins against God are not merely just a few bad choices or mistakes. No, it says we are God’s enemies.
And if you do not understand how terrifying it is that the omnipotent God of the universe is your enemy, then you will never understand the angel’s song of praise.
Which bring us to our last point.
3. We Should Praise THE GLORY of Christ Because….He Brings Peace To Men
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
As we turn now from the setting of the song to the substance of the song, we learn specifically why these angels are praising God.
There are 3 main parts of this song:
1) Glory to God
2) Peace on earth
3) God’s good pleasure
As I was looking at this song I noticed that if you work your way backwards through these 3 parts of the song you see a bit of a progression of how salvation works and functions.
Watch how it works:
Because of (1) God’s good pleasure (2) he brings peace on earth to men and (3) these things brings great glory to God.
It reminds me of the chain of salvation we see in Romans 8:30 when Paul says “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Oh isn’t it amazing that he would be well pleased with any of us? Don’t you realize that if you are a Christian today it is not because God saw something wonderful and great in you? If you are a Christian today it is because of something great in God…his beaming and overflowing heart of mercy.
Isn’t this exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
The salvation that angels are witnessing in heaven, these things that 1 Peter 1:12 says the angels long to look upon, is a salvation that will not give you any glory.
You will not get any praise for your awards and accomplishments. You will not get any praise for good works or church attendance.
For this salvation is the glory of God alone. It grounded in his free and sovereign grace.
Imagine getting the opportunity to go up to heaven like John did who wrote the book of Revelation and imagine you walk up to the throne room of God and you see what he saw. He said there was a host of angels surrounding the throne of God and they were all with one voice they were singing:
“Worthy is the lamb that was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
And what if in the middle of that is going on you start trying to get everyone’s attention. Hey everyone I am here. Hey look at me. Oh hey Angel Gabriel its me, you know the one from earth who has a lot of money. Oh hey Michael it me, I’m that one from earth who was really famous.
For some reason I just do not think that is going to go over very well.
Maybe one of the angels would realize you are new and gently say, “Hey if you would stop looking down at yourself and set you gaze upon him you just might like what you see.”
Go on give him a look. Don’t you see his heart of mercy? Don’t you see that no matter how deep or wide mankind would sin against him his mercy always went deeper and wider?
Oh just give him one look and you will never be the same again. He is too beautiful and glorious to take your eyes off him.
John Owen once wrote that one of the greatest pleasure we have both in this life and the life to come is to behold the great glories of Christ.
Beholding Christ In The Midst of the Newtown, CT Tragedy
I wonder if Jesus Christ looks glorious to you today. I wonder if recent tragedies in our country have caused you to doubt his goodness, to question whether he might be less glorious than he really is.
If that is you today I want you to know that this recent tragedy has personally hit me unlike another one that I can remember. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have a daughter in a kindergarden and for the last two weeks I have been doing a lot of work in the several of the elementary schools around the city.
So I by no means would EVER EVER want to minimize the terrible tragedy and pain that these families are going through, but yesterday as I was looking at this sermon I couldn’t help but ask:
Can I still come up on this stage and tell all these people that they should praise to the superiority and the humility and the glory of Christ?
How can I come up here and tell you that this baby, this prince of peace, has come to bring peace on this earth when every day in the news whether it be here in Chicago or somewhere else like Newtown, CT we see such a lack of peace?
And as I was praying to God and asking him for wisdom on what to say and what to do I had this overwhelming feeling that God wanted me to remind you that the message of Christmas is a message brings hope to a lost and dying and hurting world.
You see there were some Fathers on Friday that sent their sons and daughters off to school not knowing what would happen to them on that day and we all know that if they would have known that was going to happen they would have never let their kids go into that school building that day.
Yet, the message of Christmas tells us of another Father who sent his one and only son to this earth knowing full well what was going to happen….And he still did it.
He came into the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. We rejected him, we despised him, he was a man of many sorrows, and he was eventually murdered.
He went through strife so that we could know peace!
He was crushed so that we could be lifted up!
He experienced the displeasure of God so that we could experience His pleasure!
Don’t you see that there is no other gathering of worshippers this morning who can tell you that their God knows what it is like to lose his son. What other religion? … What other god? … What other faith has a God like our God who knows our pains and sufferings? … There is NONE! For there is only one God, one faith and one Lord who comes down from his mighty throne and takes on the pain and suffering and evil in this world.
That is amazing glory of Christ’s incarnation. That is the amazing glory of his humility that he would not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but he humbled himself and took on the form of a servant. He became obedient to the point of death and even death on a cross.
Our God Is A Man of Sorrows!
Man of Sorrows! What a name … For the Son of God who came … Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude … In my place condemned He stood … Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we … Spotless Lamb of God was He … “Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Lifted up was He to die … “It is finished!” was His cry … Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King … All His ransomed home to bring … Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!