And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:13 – 14
[This is a portion of our sermon this morning]
Our text says, “Suddenly, immediately,” when the messenger announces the last syllable of the message [For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord] a multitude of the heavenly host is made visible. Multitude literally means thousands. The word “hosts,” is used throughout scripture (we think of “Lord Sabbaoth” as we sing in A Mighty Fortress is our God – or as Eugene Peterson translates in the Message – “God of the angel armies.” The word translated “hosts” is typically associated with military units. And our eyes are opened to the spiritual reality of what is happening on earth – God has come, the Lord of Hosts is born in a manger, and His angels have accompanied Him – because God has just dealt a death blow to the cause of Satan – He has made the tactical move of eternity, He has come to fight through life and death Himself. We catch a glimpse of the heavenly hosts in the book of 2nd Kings when the prophet, Elisha prays (2 Kings 6) for a young man’s eyes to be opened, and when they are it says, “and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” This picture in the Bible is closer to the picture that we have here in Luke than the vast majority of Christmas cards out there. We like to think about little girls with feather wings in dresses singing Silent Night – but that is not what is going on here. In the days of the Roman Empire, it was not unusual for legions to be assembled to celebrate the birth of a future emperor. What happens here is no exception, the King has been born and His armies are present and accounted for, and they are singing.
As Joni Eareckson Tada noted her pastor said last Sunday, “When the angels appeared over Bethlehem, theirs wasn’t a lullaby, it was a battle cry.”
We should see what the angels sing is more of a military chant than a Christmas carol. This reminds me of one my favorite movies this time of year – the 1954 Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”. There are mirrored scenes at the beginning of the movie on the battlefield and towards the end when the Division is reunited where the men sing the praises of General Waverly, “We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go. . .” Or you may think of the end of the Sands of Iwo Jima, when in the background near the end they begin to sing the Marine Corps Anthem – there is something about multitudes of men singing that brings tears to your eyes and makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. And this is what happens in the skies over Bethlehem: soldiers praising their commander. And this is what they sang:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
And when we get the full picture, we realize, “Peace,” is a great word to hear from a heavenly army!
They praise God in the highest heaven, and celebrate the truth of the Gospel: man and God may now be at peace through His good pleasure because He has provided Salvation by the only means possible: Himself. It is not about peace on earth it is peace to earth – because man is at war with God. It is not just that a baby has been born and that we can enjoy the story and think, “how precious,” It is that God has taken the furthest step in the redemption story that God takes other than the Cross itself, He has taken on the incarnation, He has put on flesh, and His armies are praising Him for it.