Summary: God gets the glory when people are at peace.
The Angels’ Alleluia
Rev. Brian Bill
On Monday I listened to a sermon podcast while I was exercising at the Rec Center. I was actually multi-tasking on the elliptical so I quickly lost interest in the message. I was watching ESPN and reading something else as the sounds of the sermon went through my headphones. I was also trying to concentrate so that I wouldn’t lose my balance and fall off and of course I sped up every time someone looked through the windows so they could marvel at how incredibly in shape I am.
I didn’t think the podcast preacher was all that good so I actually turned the sermon off after about 20 minutes and started listening to something else. The content wasn’t very helpful and his accent was starting to bother me (he obviously was not from Wisconsin).
Later that day, Lydia and I drove to Iowa in order to meet up with Emily so they could hang out for a few days. Since I knew I had an almost three hour return drive by myself, I decided to redeem the time by listening to some sermons. I listened to one message that was quite challenging and then I selected another one. This pastor had an incredible English accent and was a very gifted communicator. As a solitary traveler in the darkness of I-80, I was mesmerized by the message. About halfway through, I realized that I had already heard this same sermon earlier in the day!
Why was my response so different the second time? Obviously I wasn’t really paying attention to the preacher that afternoon (that would never happen here). I was distracted and doing other things so I missed the message almost entirely. But, in the darkness of the night and in the solitude of my car, God got through to me.
In a similar way, God got through to some shepherds one dark and silent night as they were simply out doing their job. He sent angels to get their attention and they sure got it. God could have made his angelic announcement at the Temple in the middle of the day, but this sermon song wouldn’t have stuck, would it? When there’s too much going on, we tune out and shut down.
This morning we’re going to camp in one of the most famous Christmas choruses as we listen again to the lyrics made famous by Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Linus quotes directly from Luke’s Gospel: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Our Big Idea for today is this: God gets the glory when people are at peace.
Let me mention something before we look at this angelic encounter. Have you heard the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt?” That basically means that the more familiar we are with something at best, we get bored with it or at worst, we start resenting it. Let’s try hard to listen to this account as if we were hearing it for the first time. Imagine yourself a traveler in Judea and you’re listening to this story first-hand from one of the shepherds.
Luke 2:8 says: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” In the early pages of the Bible, shepherding was considered a noble profession but in the first century it had lost its luster. While we tend to romanticize them for our cards and carols, shepherds made up the lowest class of people, coming in just ahead of the lepers. They were not trusted as witnesses in court because they were known as liars and thieves. They were not able to keep the ceremonial aspects of the Law and living out in the fields away from society made them outcasts. Most of them had foul mouths and were ready to fight at the drop of a hat. Kind of sounds like me in my high school days.
Let’s remember that Christmas always comes to the marginalized, the hurting, the discouraged, the outcasts, and the heavy hearted. The angels came to these guys to show that salvation is for everyone. We tend to think that God is for the ‘good’ people but actually He is for all people.
Verse 9 says, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” An “Angel of the Lord” was one of God’s top gun guys, literally meaning “from the face of God.” This angel was sent out with a specific task. In the midst of the mundane, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a huge display of glory power. Into the darkness of a silent night came the brightness of the glory of the Lord. When he appeared, God’s glory exploded all around them. The word “glory” refers to God’s beauty and brightness. In the Old Testament glory is used synonymously with power, splendor and holiness. It has the idea of heaviness or weightiness.