Angels We Have Heard on High
by Robby Higginbottom
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. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 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!”[a]
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.
Christmas these days is strange and wonderful. It’s strange that Christmas can make or break the year for many businesses. It’s wonderful that Christmas can bring together millions of families every year. It’s strange that Christmas transforms neighborhoods, shopping malls, and restaurants almost overnight. It’s wonderful that Christmas brings the beauty of trees, lights, and wreaths. It’s strange that Christmas affects millions of people who have little interest in Christ. It’s wonderful that Christmas seems to make everyone a little kinder and warmer for a month or so. It’s strange that people flock to malls and scour the internet looking for the perfect gift. It’s wonderful when a season of giving leads us to consider God’s plan to give us the ultimate Gift.
As strange and wonderful as Christmas can be in our culture, it doesn’t compare to the coming of Christ. It’s strange that an angel would appear to shepherds, unclean outcasts on the outskirts of town and the fringes of society. It’s wonderful that God would do this, so that no one would feel beyond the reach of His grace. It’s strange that the angel would say to the shepherds, “For unto you is born this day…a Savior.” It’s wonderful that God would give His greatest Gift, not just to Mary and Joseph, but to the shepherds, and by implication, to the world. It’s strange that the sign of this wonderful news would be a baby lying in a manger. It’s wonderful that when God became man, there were perhaps more animal than human witnesses. It’s strange that the King of Kings would take his first nap in a feeding trough, so far from the comforts of a palace. It’s strange that a baby being born would lead angels to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” It’s wonderful that God Himself would be our peace, a peace that surpasses any temporal or geopolitical peace.
Have we adequately reckoned with the strange wonder of Christmas? In this season, the world invites us to come and see a thousand good things and miss the one thing that really matters. We’re tempted to think that getting this or giving that or displaying this or decorating that will somehow bring us peace and joy. All the distractions make it really hard to “come to Bethlehem and see Christ, whose birth the angels sing.” As we come and behold Christ, we are reminded that our worship is often misdirected. May we not let familiarity distract us from the strange wonder of Christmas! Who but Jesus is worthy of our coming and worshiping on bended knee? Who but Jesus can bring us the peace that we need with God? Who but Jesus can give us something, not just to come and see, but to go and tell? Brothers and sisters, during this Christmas season, fear not, for behold, the Lord has brought us good news of great joy. For unto us was born that day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. There’s nothing more strange or wonderful. Gloria, in excelsis Deo!