The Nativity of Our Lord – Christmas Midnight
December 24, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church—Chicago, IL
In the name of + Jesus.
“Glory to God in the highest,” sing the angels. Glory to God, for God has become man. Glory in the highest, for the one who reigns on high has come down to earth. Gloria in excelsis, Deo.
The first of three great themes in the hymn of the angels sings out God’s glory. Glory means revelation, manifestation, self-disclosure. Glory is when God is who He is and acts accordingly. Glory is when He is the Creator and we the creature.
This is the hymn of our first parents in paradise, when God was God and we were creature, and we recognized both. But the serpent’s lie ignited a desire to sing a new hymn: “Glory for man in the depths.” Glory means revelation, manifestation, self-disclosure; knowledge. Knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge of what we were never meant to know except by way of experiencing all of God’s goodness. Knowledge of what we had become.
In the day that Eve and Adam ate, their tune changed—no longer a sonorous and vibrant Gloria in excelsis, Deo, but a discordant, dissonant gloria de profundo, nobis.
This did not mean that God’s glory simply disappeared. By no means. His glory appeared in fire and smoke and cloud and lightning. His glory passed before Moses and lit up his face so brightly that he needed to wear a veil. God’s glory is so unbearable for sinful man to behold, that He has to issue a disclaimer that a full encounter will leave you dead.
But now something has changed. God’s glory is veiled not with fire or smoke or cloud or lightning. It’s not a veil that hangs over Moses’ face. Veiled in flesh the godhead see / Hail th’ incarnate deity. To look at the infant Jesus is to behold the full glory of God in heaven. God’s glory for you, here on earth.
Glory to God in heaven, for Jesus is born.
The second movement of the angels’ magnum opus descends from heaven’s heights to the earth below. For when we sought our own glory in attaining the knowledge of God, we brought enmity on earth—enmity with each other, enmity with the creation, enmity with the Creator.
But now the Creator has taken upon Himself the stuff of His creation. The One who formed man from dust has taken upon Himself the dust of creation. The Word has become flesh. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Eph 2:14).
The second theme proclaims the peace that Christ achieves by His holy descent. And so the angels continue their song: “And on earth, peace.” Even as nations rage and the earth shudders. Even as natural disasters and disasters wrought by our own hand make the news each day, the Good News is that peace has come to earth. A peace that the world cannot give, a peace that surpasses all understanding. A peace that comes from the pierced hands of the risen Christ, from the forgiveness of sins.
Peace on earth, for Jesus is born.
The third and final theme completes the sweetest chord ever heard in heaven or on earth: Glory to God in the highest / And on earth, peace / Goodwill toward men!
God’s goodwill among men is the goodwill of a father for His beloved Son. The disobedience of Adam and all of his sons and Eve and all of her daughters is put right by the obedience of Jesus. His birth in the flesh is only the beginning. He remains faithful and steadfast in temptation; He willingly takes the cross that He must bear; He offers Himself up freely for the sake of a world of sin. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt 17:5b).
God’s goodwill for Christ becomes your goodwill with the Word of Christ. That Word is joined with water to become a baptism in which God also looks at you and says, This is my son, this is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased.
Goodwill among men, for Jesus is born.
Jesus Is God’s Glory in Heaven, God’s Peace on Earth, and God’s Goodwill among Men
In the name of + Jesus.
Jacob W Ehrhard
Graphics by Ian M. Welch. Copyright 2013 Ian M. Welch. All Rights Reserved. paramentics.com
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