Devotional # 64. 12/9/13. Christmas, Part 1: The Glory and the Peace.
This week’s Reading: Luke 2:14
Introduction: The traditional format of these devotionals is changing for a couple weeks as we look towards Christmas. I am excited to explore some of the incredible magnificence of when God came to earth!
If you’ve never read them I encourage you to read the first two chapters of Luke. It is the beautiful story of how God chose a specific time and place to come to earth. As I’ve mentioned several times in these devotionals I am always amazed at how God uses simple things to confuse human understanding (1 Corinthians 1:27)! He chose David to be king when he was just a scrawny kid (1 Samuel 16:1-13), He empowered Samson to kill one-thousand men by himself (Judges 15:14-17) and He used one of Christianities worst persecutors to become its most outspoken evangelist (Acts 7 & 9). When Jesus was born the Father sent angels that told shepherds, who were out in a field, what had happened. Shepherds “had a bad reputation [and] were considered unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in the law courts (Source 1). So not only does the Creator of the universe surprise men by coming to earth at all but He comes as a weak little baby, in a small poor town and then he tells the stinky guys with a bad reputation to tell everyone that God has come to earth!
Let’s read what the angels say to the shepherds in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” There are many things we can learn from this but we’re going to focus on the “glory” and the “peace.”
The word “glory” here in the Greek is doxa (G#1391) meaning “honor, excellence, heavy and preeminence” (Source 2). This is where we get the word “doxology” from. It is the same as the Hebrew word kabod meaning “weighty” or “heaviness” (Source 3). This isn’t like “fat” but like in the 80’s when people said “that’s heavy” as in a considerable amount of importance. So Doxology is defined as praising and honoring God (Source 4) because He is more important than anything else.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “on earth peace, goodwill toward men” many times. And you’ve probably understood it in the same way I have: the angels were announcing that there would be peace on earth. But historically we don’t see a stop to wars at this time, in fact we see fights and battles increase. Along with Roman oppression we also see evidence of suffering in Matthew 2:16-18 caused by Jesus birth: when Herod killed the newborns thru two year old boys. Considering the small town of Bethlehem’s population this was probably around a dozen boys (Source 5) although this is hardly a consolation. But this was one of Satan’s attempts to kill Jesus, the Savior. So we can see that our understanding of peace from this is wrong. J. Vernon McGee says they layout of the Greek is actually more like, “peace towards men of God’s goodwill on earth’ (Source 6). There will never be peace on earth until Jesus’ second coming. But Jesus’ birth as humanity’s Savior meant that men who accepted God’s goodwill would have eternal peace. We see this in Romans 5:1 which says “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
But there is also a “peace that passes all human understanding” (Philippians 4:7) while we’re on this earth.
Conclusion: So we’ve seen the only true response this Christmas season is to give glory to God! His gift (John 3:16) is more weighty than we can imagine; it is both a solemn thing and at the same time it causes us to burst into doxology! I think Philippians 4:19 puts all of these thoughts together: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Our greatest need is salvation for our sin and a close second is the ability to trust God in His plan for our lives so we can rest in peace…not in death but in life. But who causes this to happen? The answer is always “Christ Jesus”!
Finally, here is “A Christmas Prayer” by Robert Louis Stevenson
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus’ sake.
Source 1: Guzik, quoting Morris, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Luk/Luk_2.cfm?a=975014).
Source 4: R.C. Sproul, http://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/doxology).
Source 5: Guzik, quoting Carson, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Mat/Mat_2.cfm?a=931016
Source 6: J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Luke, p. 36