The Anthem of the Angels

Luke 2:13‑14  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
" Unto you," says the heavenly messenger who visits the poor shepherds, "is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." This was proclaiming good tidings to them and to all the people.*
(* "All the people." [Not, as in the authorized version, "all people."])
But in the birth of the Son of man, God manifest in the flesh, the accomplishment of the incarnation had far deeper importance than this. The fact that this poor infant was there, disallowed and left (humanly speaking) to its fate by the world, was (as understood by the heavenly intelligences, the multitude of the heavenly host, whose praises resounded at the angel's message to the shepherds), "glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good pleasure (of God) in men." These few words embrace such widely extended thoughts that it is difficult to speak suitably of them in a work like this; but some remarks are necessary. First, it is deeply blessed to see that the thought of Jesus excludes all that could oppress the heart in the scene which surrounded His presence on earth. Sin, alas! was there. It was manifested by the position in which this wondrous infant was found. But if sin had placed Him there, grace had placed Him there. Grace superabounds; and in thinking of Him, blessing, grace, the mind of God respecting sin, that which God is as manifested by the presence of Christ, absorb the mind and possess the heart, and are the heart's true relief in a world like this. We see grace alone; and sin does but magnify the fullness, the sovereignty, the perfection, of that grace. God in His glorious dealings blots out the sin with respect to which He acts, and which He thus exhibits in all its deformity; but there is that which " much more aboundeth." Jesus come in grace, fills the heart. It is the same thing in all the details of Christian life. It is the true source of moral power, of sanctification, and of joy.
We see next, that there are three things brought out by the presence of Jesus born as a child on the earth. First, glory to God in the highest. The love of God, His wisdom, His power, not in creating a universe out of nothing, but in rising above the evil, and turning the effect of all the enemy's power into an occasion of showing that this power was only impotence and folly, in presence of that which may be called " the weakness of God;" the fulfillment of His eternal counsels; the perfection of His ways where evil had come in; the manifestation of Himself amidst the evil in such a manner as to glorify Himself before the angels-in a word, God had so manifested Himself by the birth of Jesus that the hosts of heaven, long familiar with His power, could raise their chorus, " Glory to God in the highest," and every voice unites in sounding forth these praises. What love like this love? And God is love. What a purely divine thought, that God has become man! What supremacy of good over evil! What wisdom in drawing nigh to the heart of man, and the heart of man back to Him! What fitness in addressing man! What maintenance of the holiness of God! What nearness to the heart of man; what participation in his wants; what experience of his condition! But beyond all, God above the evil in grace, and in that grace visiting this defiled world to make Himself known as He had never yet been known!
The second effect of the presence of Him who manifested God on the earth is, that peace should be there. Rejected-His name should be an occasion of strife; but the heavenly choir are occupied with the fact of His presence, and with the result, when fully produced, of the consequences, wrapped up in the person of Him who was there (looked at in their proper fruits), and they celebrate these consequences. Manifested evil should disappear; His holy rule should banish all enmity and violence. Jesus, mighty in love, should reign, and impart the character in which He had come to the whole scene that should surround Him in the world He came into, that it might be according to His heart who took delight therein. (Prov. 8:3131Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. (Proverbs 8:31))
This quotation leads to a glorious apprehension, both of what was then doing and of our blessing. The special interest of God is in the sons of men; wisdom (Christ is the wisdom of God) daily Jehovah's delight, rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth before creation, so that it was counsel, and His delight in the sons of men. His incarnation is the full proof of this. In Matthew we have our Lord when He takes His place with, the remnant, as this is fully revealed; and it is in the Son's taking this place as man, and being anointed of 'the Holy Ghost, that the whole Trinity is fully revealed. This is a wonderful unfolding of God's ways. (See as regards a smaller scale Psa. 35:10,1110All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him? 11False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not. (Psalm 35:10‑11))
The means of this-redemption, the destruction of Satan's power, the reconciliation of man by faith, and of all things in heaven and earth with God-are not here pointed out. Everything depended on the person and presence of Him who was born. All was wrapped up in Him. The state of blessing was born in the birth of that Child.
Presented to the responsibility of man, man is unable to profit by it, and all fails. His position thereby becomes only so much the worse.
But grace and blessing being attached to the person of Him just born, all their consequences necessarily flow forth. After all, it was the intervention of God accomplishing the counsel of His love, the settled purpose of His good pleasure. And Jesus once there, the consequences could not fail. Whatever interruption there might be to their fulfillment, Jesus was their surety. He was come into the world. He contained in His person, He was the expression of, all these consequences. The presence of the Son of God in the midst of sinners said to all spiritual intelligency, "Peace on the earth."
The third thing was the good pleasure,* the affection of God, in men. Nothing more simple, since Jesus was a man. He had not taken hold of angels.
(* This is the same word as when it is said of Christ, "In whom I am well pleased." It is beautiful to see the unjealous celebration by these holy beings of the advancement of another race to this exalted place by the incarnation of the Word. It was God's glory, and that sufficed them. This is very beautiful)
It was a glorious testimony that the affection, the good pleasure, of God was centered in this poor race, now afar from Him, but in which He was pleased to accomplish all His glorious counsels. So John 1, " the life was the light of men."
In a word, it was the power of God present in grace in the person of the Son of God taking part in the nature, and interesting Himself in the lot, of a being who had departed from Him, and making him the sphere of the accomplishment of all His counsels, and of the manifestation of His grace and His nature to all His creatures. What a position for man; for it is indeed in man that all this is accomplished! The whole universe was to learn in man, and in what God therein was for man, that which God was in Himself, and the fruit of all His glorious counsels, as well as its complete rest in His presence, according to His nature of love. All this was implied in the birth of that Child of whom the world took no notice. Natural and marvelous subject of praise to the holy inhabitants of heaven, unto whom God had made it known! It was glory to God in the highest.
J. N. D.