The Hymns of Advent – The Gloria In Excelsis

3rd Mid-Week in Advent

Luke 2:8-14 (Ps. 8)                 

St. John, Galveston (2022)


+ In Nomine Jesu +


Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.


This is the final evening for our Mid-Week Advent services. On these Wednesday nights we have been considering the “Hymns of Advent.”  We started with the Benedictus, the Song of Zechariah. The Benedictus taught us that God’s Word is faithful and true, and that He can and will use us in His kingdom in marvelous ways, even when our hearts are troubled with doubt and fear. Faith flourishes when it recounts the goodness of God in ages past. 


Last Wednesday, we turned our attention to the Magnificat, Mary’s song. Sadly, Mary has become a bit of a contentious figure in the narrative of Jesus’ birth. Some exalt her as the mediator of God’s grace. Others, fearful of denying Christ as the only Mediator between God and men, deny the Mary the place that has rightly been given to her. She is “Theotokos”, the mother of God. From her womb came the salvation of all mankind, Immanuel – God with us, God Incarnate, God in human flesh. Mary found great joy, and in her joy she magnified the Lord, because He looked upon her with favor, and He had regard for the lowly state of His maidservant.      


Tonight, as we move ever closer to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we reflect on His birth in the hymn of the angelic choir who sang to the shepherds in the field that night. 


14       “Glory to God in the highest (they said),

     And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”


This is the “Gloria in Excelsis,” glory in the highest.  The angel’s song has found its way into hymn and liturgy alike. Every year at this time, we sing, “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains, and the mountains in reply, Echoing their joyous strain – Gloria in excelsis Deo – Glory to God in the highest.”  In the liturgy of the Divine Service, we also sing “Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to His people on earth.”


The sound of an angelic choir is fittingly heard when God did a new thing, when He was made flesh. God came to us to save us from ourselves. He came to end the dark night of sin, to destroy the power of the devil and to render death powerless to terrify us. He came to set us free, bound as we were by the guilt and the oppressive weight of our sin. He came to restore peace to an otherwise dark, sinister and fallen world. “Glory to God in the highest!” God does a new thing!  Heaven rejoices, the angels sing, the devil trembles, the demons moan and a child is born!!


And here, in this child, is the glory of God. God’s glory, you see, is not most clearly seen when He wields His power, when He terrifies and threatens, when He condemns unbelief, or when He rights terrible injustices in the world. Rather, His glory is most clearly seen when He comes into the world to save us. The infant holy becomes the infant lowly, that He might take on all human woe. While He never commits sin, nor does He bear the curse of original sin, He nonetheless becomes sin that all sinners, you and me included, may be righteous before God. On the night of Jesus’ birth the angels sang, that God’s glory had reached its highest, its climax, in the birth of this child.  “Let the heights of heaven adore Him; Angels hosts, His praises sing; Pow’rs, dominions, bow before Him and extol our God and King; Let no tongue on earth be silent, Ev’ry voice in concert ring, Evermore and evermore.” 


Glory to God in the highest – it is the glory of God, my friends, to save you. And so, heaven rejoices, the angels sing, the devil trembles, the demons moan and a child is born!!


And He shall be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  What the prophet Isaiah foretold, the angels declared, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  Even as God hides His glory in the flesh of this little child, so His peace is hidden in the scandal of the cross. At Christmastime we are especially fond of noting how civil, how peaceful people can be toward one another. We marvel at the gestures of kindness and goodwill among men. Why, even in times of war, we give thanks that, at this most holy time of the year, weapons of war are muzzled. 


Alas, as is the way of men, the calendar turns and the days go by. The peace of Christmas is absorbed into the strife and adversity of yet another year and another day. And yet, through the scandal of the cross, God has brought peace to the earth and goodwill to men. God is no longer against you, my friends. Rather, He is for you.  There is no longer any strife or enmity between heaven and earth, between God and you. The sin that once caused you to cower in His presence, God has taken away, having nailed it to the cross. 


In the Benedictus, Zecharias remembered the goodness of the Lord in ages past, and he rejoiced. In the Magnificat, Mary praised God who had done such great things for her.  n the Gloria in Excelsis the angelic choir sang of the God whose glory it is to save a fallen humanity. Even as God hides His glory in the flesh of this little child, so His peace is hidden in the scandal of the cross. 


“Why lies He is such mean estate

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christian fear; for sinners here

The silent word is pleading,

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,

The cross be born, for me for you;

Hail, hail, the word made flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary!”

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.


+ Soli Deo Gloria +