The Angels’ Alleluia
I am so glad you could join us for Christmas at The Point online. Throughout the month of December, we have been in this series called the Christmas Playlist. For those who may not know, a playlist is a list of songs or pieces of music. It’s a word that started out in radio stations – the ‘playlist’ included a schedule of all the songs that were to be played on a particular day. With the advent of cell phones, iPods, and other electronic devices, anyone can choose their favorite songs and develop their own personal playlists now.
In this series we have stepped back about 2,000 years to discover four songs that were on the original Christmas playlist. We have looked at songs that came from Zechariah, Mary, Simeon, and today we will hear from the angels who announced Christ’s birth to a group of humble shepherds on a hillside outside of Bethlehem. Their song is recorded in Luke 2.
I am sure that these verses will be read in more church services around the world than any other passage of scripture today. We’ll begin in Luke 2:8-9…“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” – Luke 2:8-9 (KJV) What an incredible birth announcement! An angel of the Lord shows up to deliver the news that the Messiah has been born.
Of course, the shepherds were terrified, but their fear quickly turned to joy. “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:10-12 (KJV)
The greatest event in history had just happened! The Messiah had been born! The Jews had been waiting for this moment for ages. When it finally occurred, the announcement came in an unexpected way to an unexpecting band of shepherds. I think that is part of the Good News about Jesus. He comes to all, including the plain, the simple, and the ordinary. He comes to unassuming and unexpected. He comes to anyone with a heart that is willing to accept him.
What that means is that whoever you are, whatever you do, you can have Jesus in your life. Extraordinary qualifications are unnecessary—He accepts you just as you are. One angel showed up to make the announcement, then a choir of Heavenly angels came on the scene to bring us this week’s song on the Christmas Playlist. “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, good will toward men.’” Luke 2:13-14 (KJV)
Some of the Jews were waiting for a savior to deliver them from Roman rule. Others were hoping the Messiah would deliver them from their physical ailments. But Jesus was not only there to heal them of their diseases and establishing a spiritual Kingdom, Jesus came to deliver them from SIN. His work would be more far-reaching than anyone could imagine. There were eternal implications to what happened that night.
Christ came to pay the price for the sin of all mankind, and in so doing, He opened the way for us to have peace with God. He offers us more than temporary political or physical changes—he offers us a new heart that will last for eternity. The story of Jesus’ birth resounds with music that has inspired composers for more than 2,000 years. The angels’ song has been the inspiration behind so many modern Christmas carols and most contemporary choral music.
I suppose most of us have heard the words of this song each Christmas. Many of us first heard these words in Children’s Church or Sunday School. I suspect some might have heard these words for the first time in the animated classic, a Charlie Brown Christmas. Do you remember when Linus stepped up to the microphone in the Christmas musical that Charlie Brown was trying to produce?
It is a classic scene when Charlie Brown throws his arms in the air and shouts, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus dropped his security blanket, and he stepped up to the microphone to recite the very passage that I have just read to you.
Here is the problem. When something is so familiar and so comfortable, when we have heard it so many times, it can lose its meaning. So, what does this song from the Christmas Playlist truly mean and what difference does it make in our lives today? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:14 (KJV)
Whether you know it or not, ultimately all of us are looking for what the angel proclaimed. All of us are looking for PEACE. That’s one of the reasons we give each other gifts at Christmas. We hope that by giving that special gift that we will somehow provide some peace. When you buy a new vehicle, it’s not just about transportation. In buying that car, or truck, or motorcycle, you hope to achieve some measure of peace. When we buy clothing, it’s not just about covering our body. We are somehow convinced that by wearing the right clothes, getting the right shoes, dressing with the proper brand, we will find peace.
Everyone is looking for peace. Maybe you haven’t stopped to think about it like this. Perhaps you haven’t pondered peace in a while. But the truth is, everybody on the planet desires peace. We want peace in our family. Married couples desire peace in their marriage. One of the primary reasons we long for peace is because conflict is so exhausting. It will take a toll on you physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and even spiritually.
Peace requires the RESOLUTION of conflict. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, nothing seems to get resolved. Maybe you have tried to resolve the conflict. God knows you have tried. You have prayed. You have asked questions and looked for answers, but still no peace. And yet, peace is what we all want, not only at Christmas, but all year round.
We want peace with our spouse and with our kids. We want peace with our neighbors, our coworkers, and our colleagues. In many ways, life itself is a quest for peace. So often we perceive peace is just around the corner. It feels like it is so close, and yet so far away. We convince ourselves there will be peace as soon as we are done with our current project. Then we will have peace. As soon as I get out of this job, or out of that neighborhood, or out of this marriage, or out of a certain relationship, or out of whatever, there will be peace. You’re convinced that once you get past your finals there will be peace.
We’re all looking for peace and you would think we could find it. Surely, we can achieve peace someplace. After all, it is 2022. We can accomplish so much. We have so much knowledge, so much information, such incredible capacity. Why is peace so hard to find? We can span oceans in a matter of hours. Something that once took weeks or even months to accomplish.
We have probed the furthest reaches of space traveling further than we’ve ever thought or imagined, but still no peace. We’re smarter than we ever have been in the history of the world. High school students today have more knowledge and information available to them than the greatest scientists, biologists, and engineers of the past century.
There is so much information and technology available at our fingertips. You would think we would be able to find peace someplace. But we go to bed at night aware of the ongoing turmoil that robs us of the peace we so desperately desire. We pursue peace, but for everything we try, we are left with more tension, more pressure, more anxiety, and more stress.
Nothing seems to be able to deliver. We continue our quest for peace and the struggle to rid ourselves of anxiety continues. Then to read that that the angel says, “peace on earth.” How does that happen in the real world anyway? Jesus came for the glory of God and for the good of all people and God gets the glory when people are at peace.
The word “peace” appears over 400 times in Scripture. In the Old Testament, “peace” is the word shalom, which is a state of wholeness and harmony that is intended to resonate in all relationships. The word “peace” in the New Testament means to “join together; to set at one again.” It is kind of like the idea of gluing something back together.
Because it is multidimensional, the word peace is used in at least three ways.
• Peace with God – Vertical
• Peace of God – Internal
• Peace with others – Horizontal
Let’s talk about…
1. Peace with GOD (Vertical Peace).
While God loves us and cherishes us, we are separated from Him because of our sinfulness. When Jesus came that night so long ago, He came for one purpose. He came to die. Because of what Jesus Christ did when He died on the Cross, you and I can now be at peace with God.
According to Romans 3:23, we are all sinners. The price tag on that sin is death. Romans 6:23 warns that…“For the wages of sin is death…” – Romans 6:23a (NIV)
Jesus came to pay that debt for you and me. And that is why Romans 6:23 goes on to say…“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NIV) It is up to us to accept the incredible gift He makes available to all of us.
When Jesus died, He took upon Himself the sins of the world. He died in our place, as our sin-substitute. Listen carefully. None of us deserve what Jesus did.
You have heard me say it before.
JUSTICE is when we get what we deserve.
MERCY is when we don’t get what we deserve.
GRACE is when we get what we don’t deserve.
Sin is defined as a willful transgression of God’s law. We are all sinners. Therefore, according to scripture, we deserve death and eternal punishment. But, because of God’s great love and amazing grace, He provided a way for our relationship with Him, a relationship that was broken by sin, to be restored.
God’s GRACE and God’s JUSTICE converge on the cross of Calvary.
His love and His law find full satisfaction through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, His one and only Son. God is both the just and the justifier. My question is, do you have peace with God today or are you distant or disconnected from Him? Peace comes to the earth, from a vertical standpoint, one heart at a time.
2. Peace OF GOD (Internal Peace).
In order to have the peace of God, we must first experience peace with God. The upward dimension must be taken care of before inward peace can permeate our heart and lives. Those at peace with God can experience the peace of God. Jesus made this declaration in John 14:27…“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” – John 14:27 (NLT)
There is truly no substitute for the peace of God in your life. Its value is beyond measure and the good news is that the peace of God is something you can experience personally today. In a moment, I will show you how to experience the peace of God.
3. Peace with OTHERS (Horizontal Peace).
When we’re at peace with God and we have internal peace, we are positioned to experience horizontal peace in our relationships with others. Romans 14:19 lays out our responsibility: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” – Romans 14:19 (NIV)
Here’s a question. Are you planting peace or are you sowing seeds of strife in the relationships in your life? “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 (NIV) The truth is that not everyone wants to live at peace. But as much as it depends on you and me, we can do my part to live in peace, with no regret.
Is there anyone you need to make things right with this Christmas? As much as it depends on you, are you living at peace with others? Or are you experiencing conflict this Christmas? Is it possible that a seed of bitterness has taken root in your life? Maybe the best Christmas present you could give to someone is to make peace with them. It is a wonderful, God-honoring thing when broken relationships are restored.
I am sure some of you have already opened your Christmas presents. Perhaps you opened gifts last night, and some earlier this morning. There might be a few who will do it later today, but I would guess most are done. There’s still one more gift for you to open. The tag on the present has your name on it. It is a gift that comes FROM: God All you have to do to make this gift yours is receive it personally.
The mighty chorus of Heaven is proclaiming to you the glory of God wrapped up in the gift of His Son for you. Jesus came to bring us back to God. Our relationship with God had been severed by sin. Jesus came so that our relationship with God could be restored. And for Christmas to have any real significance for you on a personal level, that relationship with God must be renewed.
I have often wondered why people don’t have a relationship with Him. Why have they neglected such an important aspect of life? For some, I think it is because they are just too busy racing through life. They don’t seem to have time for God, and the sad part is they don’t even seem to care.
I’m sure some don’t really understand that God wants to have a relationship with them. However, I am convinced that there is an empty place inside all of us that cannot be filled apart from a right relationship with our Creator. So many try to fill that void with other things, but the only way to fill it is Jesus. Perhaps the main reason people don’t have a relationship with God is that they have a wrong picture of God.
Inaccurate Picture of God #1 – God is on the other side of a FENCE with a GATE.
They picture themselves on the outside and God on the inside. In this picture, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get to God. Others can go in but for some reason you just can’t.
Here’s why that is a wrong picture. At Christmas God came to earth. And He comes looking for you today. He has been pursuing you. Even the fact that you are online here today is a part of God’s desire to reach out to you again; to show you that He loves you; and to establish a personal relationship with you.
Some may wonder if such a relationship is even possible. It is if you believe the scriptures. That was the whole point of Christ coming in the first place! God is not distant or disconnected. He came looking for you because He loves you. He is the great initiator of relationships. That is why Jesus came.
Inaccurate Picture of God #2 – God is at the top of a tall LADDER.
In this picture you constantly try to climb your way to God. You may do all kinds of good things trying to climb the ladder and reach Him. You give, you work. You even come to church in hopes that by some of your own effort you will finally be able to reach Him. But the Bible tells us we cannot reach God on our own. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
In the picture of the fence and the gate, it seems like others can go reach Him, but you can’t seem to get to Him for some reason. In the picture of the ladder, you are always tempted to compare yourself with others and you feel like they are always just a little higher up on the ladder than you.
Inaccurate Picture of God #3 – Our personal BAGGAGE keeps us from God.
This is the person who focuses on the baggage in their life. You see all the wrong things, all the bad things you have ever done. You wonder how God could ever accept you because of your past. You feel like you will never measure up. We sometimes forget that Christmas is about Christ coming to sinners.
Jesus reminded the religious elite that it is the sick person who needs a doctor. Jesus understands. He knows your past better than you do. And the good news is that He came to heal and forgive. He wants to give you a new start! This could be the new beginning you have been looking for.
Do you feel lie you have some sin in your past that makes you unacceptable to God? If you are carrying that kind of baggage, I want to invite you to make a conscious decision to set those bags aside today once and for all. There is nothing you have done that has made God love you less. He chooses to love you with an incredible, unconditional love.
You may feel like you have disappointed God or broken His heart one too many times. Perhaps you have rejected Him and turned your back and walked away from a relationship with Him. Well, I am happy to let you know He has not rejected you and He has not turned His back on you. It is time to set aside the baggage you have been dragging through life, the baggage you have been allowing to keep you from God for far too long.
The gate, the ladder, and the baggage represent three inaccurate, unbiblical pictures of God. I have just one more picture to describe. This is the right picture. It is the Biblical picture of God. It is the Correct Picture of what Jesus offers all of us. It is the picture of “A GIFT.”
An accurate Picture of God – God offers us a GIFT.
He offers each of us a gift that unearned and undeserved. We have already read Ephesians 2:8 that reminds us it is by grace we have been saved, through faith–and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God. The Bible tells us that Jesus offers every one of us the gift of eternal life.
God’s gift to you is free. But like any gift, the gift of eternal life must be received. Will you receive it? On this blessed Christmas morning, I want to invite you to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life by receiving the greatest gift you will ever receive! “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12 (NIV)
Once you receive the gift Jesus offers all of us, you will understand the fourth song on our Christmas playlist, and that is truly where you will find peace.