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The first Noel

What is Christmas all about for you?

There’s good food, you get time to see family, crack out the board games etc. Well, one of my favorite festive things to do – call it a Christmas hobby – is playing Christmas music. Each and every year, I kindly play my Christmas music for all my family to hear. One day they’ll learn to appreciate it… (If you’re interested, this year’s is available here)

Thing is, when you think through the lyrics of the songs, it really is quite interesting. You see, these songs tell us what the authors think Christmas is all about.

Let me show you what I mean with a few classic examples:

Perry Como (1951) – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
For Mr Como, Christmas is all about looks. Decorations, candy canes, presents and ‘holly on the front door’. Obviously he hasn’t seen my wrapping skills…

Dean Martin (1959) – Let it Snow!

For Dean, Christmas is only truly Christmas when it is white. This is almost the perfect British Christmas song… It’s about the weather!

Andy Williams (1963) – It’s the most wonderful time of the year

For Andy Williams, Christmas is the time when everyone is happy, and friends come to call. That really makes it ‘the most wonderful season of all’.

The First Christmas Song

In Luke 2:8-18, we find the very first Christmas song. It’s there in verse 14:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests”.

The angels tell us what they think Christmas is all about – and that is God’s glory, and peace on earth to those on whom God’s favor rests. So why do they think that?

A bit further up, in verses 8-12, we find the details of the story. There were some shepherds living in a fields nearby. These men, were the lowest of society – they spent all every day with sheep, they lived every moment of their lives with these sheep, and, when night came, they slept next to these sheep.

They probably shared the same smells as their sheep…

So you can imagine their surprise when, whilst walking, and possibly talking to, their sheep, an angel of the Lord suddenly appears. Now this isn’t the sweet looking angel you might get at a primary school nativity – no, this is a terrifying sight – we know that because the angel has to say straight away “do not be afraid”!

The angel goes on, in verse 10, to say:

“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

You see, on the first Christmas night—and this is at the center of the Christmas story, and the heart of the Christian faith—God took on flesh. He is the messiah, the Lord! The voice that made the universe, was now heard crying in the cradle. The hands that had put every star into place, were now grabbing hold of Mary’s fingers. This baby boy was both fully human, and fully God (get your brain round that one, it’s a doctrine called the ‘hypostatic union’ if you want to research it further!).

This baby was not born in a palace, but in a manger. And the first people to see him were not royalty, but shepherds – with the smell of sheep still on them – the lowest of society.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests!”

Loud, bright and clear. It was obvious what the angels thought Christmas was all about. The message couldn’t be missed. This baby is God’s glory, bringing peace to those on whom his favour rests.

And, just as quickly as they had appeared, they disappeared into the night, leaving the shepherds alone. What would you do next?

Well, we’re told the shepherds don’t delay. They hurry off straight away to Bethlehem, and they see that everything they were told was true.

So what?

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

Peace is something that we all search for, and something we all know is hard to find. Many have tried to find it on their own, through their careers, through money, relationships, even at the end of a bottle.

But the angels tell us that peace can be found. It is found in this child, born in the town of David. God has come down, and shown us where to find his peace.

You see, the Bible is clear that we are separated from God. We are not naturally at peace with God. We cannot have peace whilst we want to run our own lives. The Bible calls this sin. We want God to go away, and let us do our own thing. It takes God to intervene, to come down to our level, to lift our eyes, and point us back to him.

And this is a message for all people – whether you’re at the top of the world, or right at the bottom of society – right at the bottom of society with those shepherds. This is a message for absolutely everyone.

Have you found peace with God? That’s the question that this passage raises. Have you found peace with the maker of the universe? I hope that over the Christmas period, you’ll have time to think this over. Especially when, as the angels say, this peace is available now – and we’re being reminded daily.

So, I hope that this year, 2016, when you hear the Christmas music playing, you’ll be reminded of this song that the angels sang – the first Christmas song. A song, telling us what Christmas is truly all about – a child, born in a manger – God come to earth.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

This post is adapted from a talk given by David at Spicer Street church in December 2016.

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