“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
among those with whom he is pleased!”
For sufferers, Christmas can be an especially challenging time of year. Words like joy, peace, and other common themes of the season feel entirely out of place to hearts weighed down with sorrow over earthly circumstances.
On the night of Christ’s birth, the angels proclaimed they were bringing good news of great joy, but we can easily lose sight of how good that news is when we consider the great suffering that still exists in this world. At times, we can easily relate to Longfellow’s sentiments:
“And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'”
Pastor Ray Ortlund reminds us that our reason for rejoicing is only found when we shift our focus from earthly pain to heavenly purposes…
God will make sure that he is supremely glorified. “Glory to God in the highest” is the chorus of the angels broadcast into this world of enslavement to drugs and cynical lies and broken dreams and national disgrace. “Glory to God in the highest” proclaims that there is something higher than the height of our sin. God reigns supreme over all, and God will not allow evil to succeed here in his world. He will get himself glory out of this world. And so he should.
If God’s heart is attuned to love only what is best, then God loves his own glory above all else. He will share his glory with no one, and that is the most wonderful thing of all about God. He will not unGod himself. What if he did? Where would we be then? He steadily, faithfully guides history and our lives toward a God-glorifying conclusion.
Isn’t it interesting how in Christmas cards on public displays we often see the words, “Peace on earth, good will toward men”? But how seldom we see the prior words, “Glory to God in the highest”! But there is no peace, there is no good will, unless there is glory to God in the highest first. We forget to put God’s glory first. Fortunately, he does not. God will be glorified.
Would you or I have begun this announcement the way the angels did, with glory to God first? Obviously, the angels did not understand the importance of relevance and contextualization and meeting felt needs. They started with God, not with peace on earth! Why? Because the most relevant message to this sin-ruined world was, is, and always will be, “Glory to God in the highest.”
Our whole problem is our God-neglect. But the best news for sinners like you and me is that, whatever we might do, God is still God, God is glorious, and God’s glory is supreme over all other realities. And when his glorious kingdom is finally consummated, then there will be perfect peace on earth, good will toward men…
God has come to us in Christ to bring glory to himself in the highest as he grants us peace here in our lives. What can we do but rejoice?
[Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, pp. 101-102]
Christmas reminds us that perfect peace is coming. What a promise!
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.'”
Photo: Billy Alexander