Friday, December 23 2022
“Glory to God in the Highest Heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
A blessed Christmas to you all.
Our gospel for Sunday, Christmas Day, includes the phrase we say or sing most of the year during the Gloria. At the Rite I service, the prayer book uses the language: Glory to God in the Highest, and peace, good will towards men. In the Rite II service, Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to his people on earth. Many Christmas hymns reference this portion of the Christmas Story: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing portrays this part of the narrative in its refrain, along with Angels We Have Heard on High. I think even Linus from Charlie Brown quoted this scripture as well. This very important phrase is one of the four virtues our Advent wreath has called us to pay attention to.
Many of you may remember at the beginning of the service the past few weeks, I’ve repeated the phrase “we gather again around the/our Advent wreath.” I wanted the repetition to be ingrained in us all as we know why we use a wreath: the never-ending love of God is circular and never ceasing. We light each of the four candles to represent different characteristics of anticipating the newborn king: one represents hope, one represents peace, one represents joy, and one represents love.
The phrase from Sunday’s gospel from St. Luke: “Glory to God in the Highest Heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors” truly captures all four of those Advent characteristics of hope, peace, joy, and love. The phrase, along with the overarching theme for the season of Advent gives us hope: hope in the Christ child as our Redeemer, as our collect titles Jesus for Sunday. We switched our vestments from penitential purple to a hope filled blue to symbolize our transition of a mindset this Advent season. Jesus came to save us from sin and eternal death, to give us new life in God through Him and through means of caring for the world around us. This is our hope.
We know this phrase from Luke’s gospel calls us to admire peace. It quite literally spells it out from the angels who proclaimed this to the shepherds in the field: on earth – peace. I truly believe that our world is fractured due to the lack of peace. Many of you know I am a big Star Trek fan; one of the cardinal virtues for a world in the Star Trek universe to grow is true global peace. Without peace, a world cannot grow into a better version of itself. This is true in our reality. We listen to the news or look at the world around us; we do not see peace right now. Rather, it is something to be grasped at; we still pray for peace.
Joy – Gaudate! Guadate is Latin for rejoice! Let the earth rejoice, as our Sunday psalm, Psalm 97 says so joyfully in verse one. Let the multitude of the Isles be glad! Joy is apparent in the music we sing, the happiness in giving and receiving of gifts brings us all. Our gospel story depicts this as the shepherds returned to the manger scene – glorifying and praising God for all they had seen. We wore rose vestments for the 8:00 am Eucharist and lit the rose-colored candle, symbolic of our joyfully receiving him as our Redeemer as our collect beautifully illustrates.
I believe love is the final ingredient for our preparation time, which is why it is the fourth week of Advent’s theme. Sunday’s second reading, in the epistle to Titus, sums up God’s love for us so clearly and succinctly: When the loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy. God loves us so much that God gave His son as a sacrifice – meaning a holy gift – that we may share with God, Jesus, and all our loved ones that have gone before us in everlasting life: heaven.
Our Christmas gospel is more than just the birth narrative according to Saint Luke. The birth narrative points us back to what we’ve been preparing for and how we have been preparing! This is the yearly festival of the birth of the Son of God. Let us take the gifts we’ve received during this season of preparation into the Christmas season, and forward, proclaiming like the angels and the multitude of the heavenly host, praising God by saying: “Glory to God in the Highest Heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Let us proclaim this in thought, word, and deed through the advent characteristics of hope, peace, joy, and love.
May God fill you with hope, peace, joy, and love this Christmas season.
Your sibling in Christ,