Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.
Luke 2:14 ESV
The story continues in chapter two of Luke’s Gospel with the birth of Mary’s son, Jesus. She journeyed with Joseph to Bethlehem for Caesar’s census, and upon their arrival, they could find no place to stay other than with the animals. Thus, the King of kings was born in a stable and laid in a manger as His first bed.
Next, Luke tells us of the first people to give homage to Jesus: shepherds. It is fitting that God would reveal the birth of Jesus to shepherds first. Shepherding has always been a lowly task, so God has made great use of shepherds. We do not know much about Abraham before God called him to Canaan, but in Canaan, Abraham was a shepherd. Although Moses spent the first forty years of his life in Pharaoh’s palace, he was not ready to lead God’s people until he also spent forty years shepherding in the wilderness. David, of course, was anointed for the throne after being brought in from the fields. In the lineage of these three mighty men, Jesus called Himself the good shepherd (John 10:11). So, having the heavens burst to life above a few shepherds outside Bethlehem was exactly God’s style.
And burst to life the heavens did. The shepherds were greatly afraid at the sight of an angel and the glory of God that he brought with him. But after telling the shepherds where and how to find the newborn Christ, the skies were filled with the hosts of heaven singing praise to God.
Their song, which is called Gloria in Excelsis Deo, begins by ascribing to God the glory that is due His name. This must have been thoroughly astounding for the shepherds, for they were witnessing one of the most glorious sights ever seen on earth. Only a few of God’s people have ever seen the glory of even one of God’s heavenly messengers, and fewer still have seen a host of them. If one angel from God’s presence is glorious enough that even the apostle John had to be told not to worship him (Revelation 19:10), how much more a whole army of them! Yet, like all of God’s servants, their great glory serves to reveal a little more of the infinite depths of God’s glory. How glorious indeed is this God to make such a procession in announcing the birth of His Son to a group of shepherds!
The second part of their song proclaims peace to earth, for the Prince of Peace had finally come. The slayer of the serpent was now born, and He would crush the dragon’s head, bringing the blessings of God as far as the curse is found. Yet notice that even here peace is not universal. Do not misunderstand me. The peace of Christ is even now still invading the entirety of the cosmos, and all shall certainly be made right. Yet not everyone will find themselves within God’s peace. Only those with whom God is pleased shall know the peace of His Son. It is those who looked for the kingdom that found it, and those looking for the kingdom will find it still. The Herods, Caesars, and Caiaphases of the world reject Christ’s peace; therefore, they will have none for all eternity.