“It was, by far, the most important event ever, accompanied by the most important song ever, that contained the most important announcement ever,” noted Paul Tripp: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” This is the third Christmas carol in the Gospel of Luke. Like the others, it was spoken rather than sung, yet it was written in a poetic form that has often been set to music. And like the other lyrics, it is commonly known by its first words in Latin: Gloria in Excelsis Deo – “Glory to God in the highest.”
Phillip Ryken, in his commentary on The Incarnation in the Gospels, writes:
“What makes this song different from the others is that it was sung by a chorus of angels. It was not a hymn that rose up from the earth, but an anthem that came down from heaven. For this reason, the Gloria gives a fuller revelation of the true divine glory of Jesus Christ. God the Son had always enjoyed the adoration of angels. From eternity past, those sinless creatures had worshiped him with perpetual praise. But now God was sending his Son into the world, where he would be despised and rejected unto death for the salvation of a lost and fallen race. This was the most glorious demonstration that God had ever made of his grace. Therefore, it was only right for him to receive the highest praise. In the words of J.C. Ryle, ‘Now is come the highest degree of glory to God, by the appearing of His Son Jesus Christ in the world. He by His life and death on the cross will glorify God’s attributes, - justice, holiness, mercy, and wisdom – as they never were glorified before."
The Christmas angels saw this glory and revealed it to the shepherd so that we could see it too. Then the angels pronounced a benediction. The coming of Christ was not just for the glory of God, but also for the good of humanity. So, after giving glory to God in the highest, they proclaimed peace on earth.
During the busyness and rush of this season, we often hear playing in the background, “Glory to God in the Highest,” those words by music. Have you ever slowed down a moment to consider what a contrast? Here we are, rushing here and there, pushing, and shoving to get the perfect gift, while humming Gloria in Excelsis Deo. How many people have any clue whatsoever what these words mean?
I wonder if we do. Yes, this is a hymn of celebration of that baby's birth, the Messiah that was promised. But these words also, in a very clear way, notes Paul Tripp, ‘define your need and mine. And in defining our need, they define the mission of that baby in the manger.’ In this song of praise we will learn not only of their proclamation but also of their prediction.
I hope you can join us this third Sunday of Advent as we not only celebrate the coming of Messiah in His first advent, but we learn to long for and eagerly anticipate His second advent. Then makes plans to bookend your Advent celebration this Sunday evening as we join in our adaptation of the historic ‘Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols’ at 6:00 pm. It promises to be a wonderful day in the Lord. Remember to invite your friends and family to come and hear God’s Word and sing God’s praise.
Glory to God,