Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (an Advent meditation)

Imagine that you were among the shepherds in Luke 2. There you sat in the field at night, possibly chilled by the air and maybe tired from either ending a long day or beginning a long night. You probably gathered around a fire with the other shepherds, the flames to keep you warm and the conversations to keep you awake.

Then suddenly in the darkness, bright light burst forth. That would be frightening enough, especially in an age without electric lights; but then to see a man standing in the midst of the light. No wonder why they quaked.

But this man, an angel of God (perhaps Gabriel as he had appeared to Mary and Zechariah), wasn’t there to frighten but to give hope. “I bring you good news of great joy,” he says, “that will be for all the people.” This good news of great joy is news that Christ the Lord had been born.

Then with this one angel appeared a vast army of angels who spoke (likely even sung) in praise of God, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

The message and the praise that came from the angels is indeed a cause for great joy. The song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing picks up this message beautifully:

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled.”

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King.”

A message of peace and joy is something the world has sorely needed since Genesis 3. Again and again for person after person in generation after generation, sin has robbed the world of peace and joy. We lack peace with God and we lack peace with each other.

But because of the King, God the Son, who came newborn to earth 2000 years ago, we have good news of great joy. First, through the perfect life of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross for our sin, God has reconciled us to himself (for by grace you are saved through faith—Ephesians 2). This gives us peace with God and joy eternal. Second, having been reconciled to God, we are to take his message of peace and joy to the ends of the earth, calling people to be reconciled with him as we seek to reconcile with one another (so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people—Romans 12).

This message is for all who will hear it, so let the nations be glad and sing for joy as people from every tribe hear the good news of great joy, turn from sin, and follow Jesus as King.

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