Happy Christmas Eve, everyone, and thanks for listening to the Ask Pastor John podcast. Earlier in the week we talked about the historicity of the birth of Christ. Then we talked about the relevance of Santa. And today we ask: What is the meaning of Christmas? In his Christmas sermon in 2011, John Piper explains not only the history of the incarnation, but its meaning. Here’s what he said from Luke 2.
On a day in real history, in a city in a real world, the Savior to take away all guilt, the Christ to fulfill all hopes, the Lord to defeat all enemies and make us safe and satisfied forever, was born. So I want to exult with you this Christmas that a great Savior, Jesus the Christ, the Lord, on a day in a city was born to save us from our sins.
And when the angel had announced this news to the shepherds (Luke 2:11), and pointed them to the place where the baby would be found, that angel was joined by an army (Luke 2:8–14). That is the meaning of the word host: an army of angels. Evidently, to deliver the news, an angel can do that. To respond to the meaning of the news, the implication of the news, it takes an army of angels to do that.
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!” (Luke 2:13–14).
So the joyful news that on a day in the perfect fullness of time and perfectly prophesied city, a Savior was born, that news can be delivered by an angel. But the outcomes of that news, the purposes of that news, the response to that news, requires an army of angels. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Glory Ascending, Peace Descending
The coming of this child will be the greatest revelation of the glory of God, even in the heights of heaven: “Glory to God in the highest.” Be glorified in the highest because of this. The coming of the Son of God into the world to do his work was the greatest manifestation of the glory of God ever. And the coming of this child would bring peace to God’s people, who would one day fill the whole earth like the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14). “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). Of the increased peace there will be no end. O God, hasten that day! First and foremost, the outcome is that God is glorified, because his child is born. And, second, peace spreads everywhere this child is received. These are the great purposes for the coming of Jesus. Glory ever ascending from man; peace ever descending from God. Do you see that?
This child came, and an army of angels shows up to declare praise. What is that about? It is about glory ever ascending from man to God and peace ever descending from God to man. That is what that is about: God getting glory; us getting peace. That is what it is. That is the purpose of the incarnation. It is the purpose of the universe being prepared for the incarnation: that God would be seen as infinitely glorious, that we would get never-ending peace. That is breathtaking. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”