When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:15-21
Golden Steeple | St. Ursula Basilica, Köln, Germany | December 2021

I’m a big picture guy. Details are useful to me only if they’re really useful. Give me the executive summary. I can fill in the blanks. It’s called being intuitive. I put things together quite well. Except when I don’t. And then it’s not pretty. People can get misunderstood. Misinterpreted. Short-cycled. Left hanging. I try to keep this in mind. And most often I do. But sometimes those pesky details are forgotten. I don’t read every word. I assume. And you know that that does…

The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus is a church holiday that is more often overlooked than observed. Most people observe it as New Year’s Day. It falls on January 1. But Jesus’ name and his circumcision have far-reaching consequences.

For the OT people of God, circumcision was all about becoming an heir of the promise God made to Abraham. This ritual brought the child into the covenant promise God had made to Abraham. Circumcision was also a representation of sin being removed. It offered forgiveness, and God’s righteousness, along with membership in the family of God. The promise was that Abraham’s descendants through faith would be many nations. The everlasting covenant God made with Abraham was that he would bring a Savior into the world. – Rev. John Wackler, Zion Lutheran Church

Jesus now more fully identifies with his covenant people. He has taken on flesh. He has been born of a virgin. Laid in a manger. Announced by angels. Worshiped by shepherds. Now becomes the next step in taking on the fullness of our human experience. As he becomes part of God’s covenant people, he begins also more fully to live in perfect faith to God and love toward others. He is all we could never be. He is our righteousness.

Jesus’ name connects him with us as well, for the name Jesus means the Lord saves. It amazes me when people use Jesus’ name as an expletive. Why take that beautiful name, rich in meaning, and sully it by turning it into an expression of anger, dramatic dismissal, or despair? The Bible says that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth, and under the earth. Sounds like there will be no exceptions. I’m happy to bow at Jesus’ name today, for he is my Savior.

If Jesus identifies with us in his circumcision, and as our Savior in his naming, we identify with Jesus’s circumcision in our baptism, and with his name in our confession of faith.

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Colossians 2:11-12

“Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:11

Jesus’ circumcision and naming is a big deal. It is essential to the story of God’s love for the world written in the blood, sweat, and tears of his Son. It’s already happening here: blood and tears at his circumcision. And it won’t stop until 33 years later when Jesus rises from the dead. And it will go on for us until the Great Last Day when Jesus returns and wipes the tears from our eyes. And our sins, washed away in the blood of the lamb will trouble us no more. There will be no more sweat of our brow. There will be eternal joy as we fully identify with Jesus, the one who did it all for us – from the greatest acts of sacrificial obedience to the tiniest detail of faithful obedience.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior. I’ve been baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. Thanks be to God!

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:15-21
Tiny Tufts of Moss | Martinshöhe, Germany | December 2021

The skies here in Germany – when there is no fog or clouds – are remarkably stunning. Without light pollution the stars are brilliant. I am reminded of Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies above his handiwork. God’s name is written all over creation. His majesty is displayed in the heavens.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 1:20: [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

But there are limits to this Natural Knowledge of God. A study that delves deeply into this issue makes significant observations. (See Below)

Something far beyond natural revelation happened 2000 years ago when Jesus was born. A supernatural event opened the door to a more perfect knowledge of God. Jesus’ birth was the initial fulfillment of God’s plan as revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures. The New Testament will explain and give witness to that which God promised in the Old Testament promises. The Bible is the record of God’s revealed knowledge of himself. This is saving knowledge. It is the stuff of faith.

A professor once said that the Christian faith is not about the eternal destiny of others. It is about God’s revelation to us each and to those who profess faith in Jesus. That does not mean that my neighbor who does not know or believe in Jesus has a free pass. The only promise of salvation is to those who have faith in Jesus. And while we may be motivated by our love for our neighbor to witness to Jesus, we are each accountable to God for what has been revealed to us.

So what has God made known to you? To me? He has made known his love and grace in Jesus Christ. He has shown his faithfulness and justice in Jesus’ life and death, and his glory in Jesus’ resurrection. He has revealed the means of salvation – by grace, through faith – to all who believe.

I thank God that he has revealed this to me, and to you, dear reader. For by this knowledge we may be saved from sin, death, and eternal damnation. And in the fullness of God’s grace, not only has he shown his love in the gift of the Savior, he has given us the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith and to move us to proclaim his excellencies to one and all.

Our knowledge of God and his grace in Jesus is for our salvation, and just as the Shepherds, to make known the saying of the angels, ”For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

The following definitions may be helpful. They come from a study done by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations.

Natural Revelation: That general manifestation of God—whether recognized as such or not—in and through nature, as distinct from his special revelation in the incarnate Christ and inspired Scriptures.

Natural Knowledge: That knowledge of God, however dim or incomplete, to which humanity has access by means of natural revelation, and apart from special revelation.

Natural Theology: That exercise of reason by which a natural knowledge of God is acquired, or by which it is further supported, by means of natural revelation.

Natural Religion: False religion (as, e.g., Deism) in which natural revelation, natural knowledge, and natural theology are deemed sufficient for salvation, are ele- vated to a magisterial position, and are thus made the rule and norm by which even supernatural revelation, knowledge, and theology are judged.

Natural Law: Those objective and universal moral precepts—whether or not acknowledged as such, and whether or not recognized as divine in origin—which are innate or accessible to natural reason without recourse to special revelation.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:15-21
Nativity | St. Ursula Basilica, Köln, Germany | December 2021

Our recent travels have provided several opportunities for quiet reflection. My body has not adjusted fully yet to the time change and sleeping arrangements. So awake at 3 AM, or 4, or 2, I have quiet moments to contemplate. My go to has been to pray the Lord’s prayer… again and again until I fall asleep. More recently I have been reciting the first 18 verses of the Gospel according to John. ”In the beginning was the word…” I have it nearly perfectly memorized. And I love the sublime theology and beautiful mysterious blessings conveyed in those words, ”The word became flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.

I don’t know whether Mary had those same thoughts as she pondered the events of the First Christmas. But we do know that she did ponder these things and treasured them in her heart. Luke will tell us of an event 12 years later when Mary again, ”treasured up all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Mary’s example is a worthy one to follow.

John Ortberg writes of a conversation he had with a spiritual mentor. He was interested in the next thing he should do to gain a deeper spirituality. His mentor said, ”You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Ortberg’s response: ”Got that. What’s next.” Again the reply: ”You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Ortberg once again: “Got that. What else?” The reply: ”There is nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

The angel said it was ”Good News of great joy to all the people.” Far reaching. It was such a dramatic event: the angel of the Lord, a host of angels join their voices in praise to God. And when the shepherds check it out they discover things are just as the angel had told them. All is there according to their announcement.

As I’ve said before,* “Walk a little slower. Be a little quieter. Stay a little longer. For the world is loud and God often whispers.” 

This week between Christmas and New Years Day is a good week to do just that. Ponder. Reflect. Meditate. Consider….

  • Is there a sin to confess?
  • Is there a truth to believe?
  • Is there a promise to claim?
  • Is there a change to make?
  • Is there a hope to hold to?
  • Is there a lie to abandon?
  • Is there a joy to embrace?
  • Is there a blessing to share?
  • Is there a challenge to accept?
  • Is there a Savior to behold? 

Just a few good questions to ponder today…

Mark Lowry – Mary, Did You Know?

*I’ve attributed this quote to Chuck Swindoll, but I cannot find a citation. So next time, I’ll simply say, ”As I’ve always said…” That is unless someone can point me to the source.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:15-21
Madonna and Child | St. Ursula Basilica, Köln, Germany | December 2021

Bells tolled across the churches of the nation. Students celebrated with songs and shouts. The Vietnam war was finally ended. Maybe you remember the event more than you do the date. January 27, 1973. President Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accord. They had navigated issues ranging from the shape of the table for the talks to the final disposition of Saigon.

Sometimes you just have to shout it from the rooftops. The news is just too good. The relief too strong. The implications to far-reaching.

You may realize that the implications of the Savior’s birth is far and away more significant than the end of a war. And while the shepherds didn’t have an end of a war to compare the Savior’s birth to, they knew this was a momentous event. They had to share the news.

The angel said it was ”Good News of great joy to all the people.” Far reaching. It was such a dramatic event: the angel of the Lord, a host of angels join their voices in praise to God. And when the shepherds check it out they discover things are just as the angel had told them. All is there according to their announcement.

Yet there is still more here. There is something about all this that ignites the shepherds’ hearts to let others know about all this. Shepherds are not notable or noble. They do a job. It’s not glamorous. But two things set them apart this night. They believe the message of the angel. This is more than intellectual assent. They see beyond the facts of this event. They see themselves as part of this story.

You might say, ”Of course they see themselves as part of this story. They’re major players in the divine drama!” And I would say that they see themselves as part of this story in the same way that you and I can .We who are of faith are part of the story of the shepherds. We’ve been visited by God. A Savior has been born to us.

You may not be all that jazzed about identifying with the shepherds. Your station in life may be much higher than theirs. But we all need a Savior. And we have one. This is good news for us. He is Christ the Lord. Sing with the shepherds, ”Angels we have heard on high! Gloria in excelsis deo!

Christmas Jubilee!

Angels we Have Heard on High – Pentatonix
Angels We Have Heard on High (Christmas w/ 32 fingers and 8 thumbs) – The Piano Guys

Andrea Bocelli – Angels We Have Heard On High

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:15-21
Nativity Scene | St. Ursula Basilica, Köln, Germany | December 2021

How long did it take your family to open their gifts on Christmas morning? Is it a free-for-all, or a structured and ordered, one-after-another process? Are there mounds and mounds of tissue, wrapping paper, empty gift bags, and ribbons still laying around? Or is your living room all cleaned up by now?

Are you sitting in the afterglow of the whole event? Did you go to ”the best service of the year?” For me, that’s Christmas day. The end of a long run, and a beautiful service of carols and the Christmas message, with a go-right-home-afterwards event. Ahhh… Sitting in the afterglow.

But the message of Christmas is not a one-and-done event. The story doesn’t stop at the manger. Shepherds will visit. They will worship and marvel. They will discover how the message of the angels was exactly right. Things were just as they had said.

This week, I’ll reflect on the visit of the shepherds, their marveling, and their trip away from the manger. I’ll also reflect on Mary’s treasuring and Jesus’ circumcision. Much to unpack here…

Let’s start with the shepherd’s visit and their discovery of everything ”just as it has been told them.” That has to do with more than a child in a manger. It has to do with the Good News of the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord.

I am deeply thankful for this Savior, for I need him. And I am discovering more and more how true this is. I need a Savior. And Jesus is not just a savior. He is the Savior, Christ the Lord. He is no flash in the pan. He’s not a wannabe. He’s the Lord, God in the flesh. Savior. Messiah.

And he shall reign forever and ever. Oh how thankful I am for him! My faith in him will not be disappointed. It is not misplaced. It is solid as long as it is focused on him. Nothing can come between us. No one can preempt him.

Thanks be to God! Christ the Savior is born, and he shall reign forevermore, evermore!

Christmas Joy!

Alleluia Chorus from Handel’s Messiah
Chris Tomlin – He Shall Reign Forevermore and Evermore

For your personal meditation and reflection on this Lord’s Day, the day after Christmas.

Psalm 26:8

O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
and the place where your glory dwells.

Psalm 56:3-4

When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 86:11-13

Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Psalm 116:12-14

What shall I render to the LORD
for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

Psalm 146

Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. – John 1:1-18

Mary & Child | Two photos, one of our nativity scene, the other (superimposed) of a building in downtown Houston. This brings a blue color cast and unusual lines. | December 2017

The Word Became Flesh.

What a mystery!

What a blessing!

Merry Christmas!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:8-14
Nativity Scene | Christmas Market, Metz, France | December 2021

There is a time and season for everything. A time to mourn and a time to dance. So says the Preacher (cf. Ecclesiastes 3). Now is the time to sing! It’s Christmas Eve. Thousands upon thousands will join the heavenly host in singing praise to God this night. From the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica to the Christmas in a Barn at LifeBridge Church (a yearly tradition since its founding) carols and choirs, bells, organs, guitars, violins, horns, and voices will raise a song of praise to God. Glory to God!

My favorite among them all is the sublimely beautiful and inspiring ancient (4th or 5th century) Christmas hymn: Of the Father’s Love Begotten. This ancient song expresses, better than I could ever do so, the majesty, mystery, and blessing of Jesus’ birth. I cannot possibly stress enough the depths to which it reaches my soul. I hope its message touches your heart as well.

1 Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see
evermore and evermore.

2 Oh, that birth forever blessed
when the virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race,
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face
evermore and evermore.

3 This is he whom seers and sages
sang of old with one accord,
whom the voices of the prophets
promised in their faithful word.
Now he shines, the long-expected;
let creation praise its Lord
evermore and evermore.

4 Let the heights of heav’n adore him,
angel hosts his praises sing,
pow’rs, dominions bow before him
and extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
ev’ry voice in concert ring
evermore and evermore.

5 Christ, to thee, with God the Father,
and, O Holy Ghost, to thee
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
and unending praises be,
honor, glory, and dominion
and eternal victory
evermore and evermore.

Those are the verses of which I am most familiar. But there are others as well.

At His Word the worlds were framèd;

He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men,
thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens,
with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring,
evermore and evermore!

———————————–

He is found in human fashion,
death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children
doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
evermore and evermore!

—————————–

O that birth forever blessèd,
when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

Christmas Blessings!

Here is a unique version of this Christmas hymn. Another more traditional version is below this one.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:13-14
“Waiting for Jesus” | Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew | Frankfurt, Germany | December 2021

A line from a movie: I want peace on earth, good will toward men.
Reply: We’re the United States Government. We don’t do that sort of thing.
The conversation goes on with the final agreement: I’ll see what I can do.

I’m very proud of all four of our sons. They have each served in the United States military, and one is a U.S. Navy officer. We enjoy a great deal of peace here in the western world in great part due to the strong military presence and readiness we maintain around the world.

But armies rise and fall. Peace is all too fleeting. In spite of our defenses, strength, and readiness, the upheaval of war and pestilence is too often upon us. In fact the United States Government doesn’t bring peace on earth, good will toward men. Their necessary role is to subjugate our enemies and force bad characters and evil nations to behave. Peace is more than a secession of war. Peace in the fullest sense is the secession of hostility in the heart. Jesus is called the prince of peace because he is the one who brings these hostilities to an end.

Thirty years after his birth, Jesus has some interesting and challenging things to say about peace. [See the list of verses below]. He tells repentant sinners to go in peace. He offers peace to the woman who is criticized for sinful lifestyle and immodest display of attention to Jesus (washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair). In the days before his death, he comforts his disciples who might have much to worry about with the promised gift of peace. He announces his resurrection triumph over death at his resurrection with the greeting, “Peace!”

I need this word from Jesus! Because when God speaks, things happen. Jesus’ word of peace is not just a wishful greeting, but a promise founded on his identity as the Son of God and sealed by his resurrection from the grave.

These are troubling days for life in this world. Fears of inflation. The COVID-19 pandemic. Political turmoil. Immigration crises. International power plays. Threats of war.

But this is the world into which Jesus has come. He brings peace. The sword divides those who do not believe his word and promise from those who do. But it is a sword that will be quickly sheathed by a repentant cry of faith. So I will read these verses to bolster my repentant cry of faith. How about you?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. – Matthew 10:34

And [Jesus] said to [the woman who touched his garment], “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” – Mark 5:34

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. – Mark 9:50

And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” – Luke 7:50

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” – John 20:19-21

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” – John 20:26

Christmas Peace!

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:13-14
Nativity Scene | Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew, Frankfurt, Germany | December 2021

We traveled recently. Through that experience we were very high – 41,000 feet, if I recall correctly. And 20 feet or more underground (traveling through the tunnel from Concourse A-B at Chicago O’Hare airport). In every place, both high and low we counted on God’s providential care and gracious presence. From keeping the plane in the air to sustaining the tunnel supports and moving sidewalks along the way. God is everywhere, and in all situations, he desires that we enjoy his favor and honor him as our greatest good in life.

The first Christmas carol reflects this span of God’s presence and glory. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…”

Beyond the long span of God’s presence and the blessing of his omnipresence, is the calling for high and low to give God the glory. From kings and lords, to demons and Satan himself, properly comes praise and glory to God.

This is also referenced elsewhere in the New Testament:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

It ought to make no difference when we see a high and mighty person kneeling in prayer or serving others in an attitude of humility. But it does for me. When I see a person of power or financial means honoring Jesus, it goes a long way toward showing just how high and worthy he is.

Equally true, however, is that God honors the praises of the lowly. Not only do the high and mighty properly praise God, but God shows up and visits the lowly shepherds with the Good News of the Savior’s birth. Some want to make the shepherds special, citing the likely possibility that they tended sheep some of which would be sacrificed in the temple. But they were still just shepherds. They had no special standing. Theirs was a menial task.

But here in this moment, as angels praise God, lowly shepherds hear the angel chorus. And the Good News: God’s glory reaches to the highest heights. And he who is mighty has come to earth and invited the lowliest to receive his gift of salvation.

Christmas Joy!