“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’” ~ Luke 2:13-14
The Christmas season brings so many wonderful emotions each year—the great carols of Christmas, the amazing holiday food and desserts, the priceless quality time spent with loved ones, and gifts under the tree. But, the best thing about Christmas is the true gift of Christmas, delivered in the form of a baby. His name is Jesus, Savior of the world. And, in this greatest story ever told, Jesus’ humble birth fills us with joy and stuns us with amazement, just as it did the shepherds who were watching over their flocks that Holy night when Christ was born.
The events surrounding Jesus’ birth certainly stunned, and even “terribly frightened,” these select shepherds who were paid an especially extraordinary visit. Luke described how an angel visited shepherds in the fields to tell them the “good news of great joy” regarding the birth of Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). He wrote, “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’” (Luke 2:13-14).
What took place in the sight of these common Jewish shepherds was absolutely unprecedented! There are examples throughout the Bible of angels praising God in heaven (Isaiah 6:3, Daniel 7:10, Revelation 5:11-12, Revelation 7:11), but nowhere else in Scripture do we see such a large host of angels worshipping God from the earth.
Who are the “multitude of the heavenly host?” A closer look at the Greek word used in this passage is highly revealing. The word used by Luke is στρατιά (transliterated: stratia), a word that in classical Greek denoted “an army or a company of soldiers.” Understanding “stratia” as a word with explicit military overtones certainly transforms our traditional depiction of a four-part harmony choir “sweetly singing o’er the plains” of Bethlehem for an image of a vast and powerful angelic army robed in battle array. Though it is not certain if the angels were actually singing (as several of our Christmas hymns depict), it is clear that they were indeed speaking and offering praises unto God.
Instead of the angel armies arriving for that great and terrible Day of the Lord as the prophets often announced (Isaiah 13:9, Jeremiah 46:10, Joel 2:1-11), the angels were proclaiming peace! The time had not yet come for the final judgment. In declaring to the shepherds, “…and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased,” the heavenly host was praising God and heralding a time of longsuffering and amnesty for all of humanity. Because of His great love, God incarnate was coming to visit His people and provide an opportunity for repentance for all.
What does this mean for you and me? Everything.
Questions for Thought
- Just as the heavenly host caught the attention of the shepherds to “go straight to Bethlehem” and see the Savior, what things or distractions in your life need to be attended to this Christmas season in order for you to truly run and “see the Savior” with clear and renewed vision?
- Have you ultimately trusted in Jesus Christ, the true gift of Christmas, as the Lord and Savior of your life?
Christ is come! And, a day is near when Jesus, the Lord of Hosts, will return again and no longer delay His second coming. The Captain of the heavenly armies will come in glory with His angelic host and call His children home (yes, the same heavenly host that heralded the “good news of great joy” to the shepherds over 2,000 years ago). As the gospel hymn declares, “The Savior is waiting to enter your heart. Why don’t you let Him come in?” Whether in triumph or trial, challenge yourself to let His coming and call to repentance be the message in your heart. Are you a child of the King? As the gospel hymn declares, “The Savior is waiting to enter your heart. Why don’t you let Him come in?” Whether in triumph or in trial, may the longsuffering of God be our hope today. Let His coming and call to repentance be the message for our hearts and the witness of our lives until the day of His return. “Glory to God in the highest!”
Dr. Tyler Brinson
Minister of Music and Worship
Dr. Brinson is a Dove Award-winning worship leader who is passionate about leading and inspiring people to worship God in spirit and truth. Tyler believes corporate worship should be a rehearsal for heaven—all voices and generations praising and worshiping Jesus together. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Music Business from Lee University, his Master of Music from Baylor University, and his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Church Music from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Tyler and his wife, Diana, have been married since 2015. They are proud parents of their daughter, Savannah, and son, Parker.