Categories
Life

Day 15: Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

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)

Come to Bethlehem and see Christ whose birth the angels sing; come, adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King. Gloria, in excelsis Deo!  Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

We know these words well from the third verse of the classic Christmas hymn “Angels We Have Heard on High.” They are almost too familiar and common because we sing them every December year after year. Because of that, you might sing them with little or no excitement. It’s rote. It’s ritual.

Often God becomes familiar and common to us. He is not as glorious—valuable, worthy, majestic, splendid—as he once was to us. I know all that already, we think. So we get bored with him. This happens not because God is common. He’s not boring! Rather, it’s because we’ve actually deceived ourselves and been captivated by a cheap substitute. We have exchanged what is beautiful and holy for what is ugly and common. The Bible puts it this way, “[People] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). We have worshiped what is created and trampled upon the Creator who is worthy of all glory, honor, praise, and blessing.

Christmas is God’s response to this. At Christmas, God entered the common to show us that he is the glorious one who is worthy of our worship. That night in the fields of Judea, God was like a proud father, pulling out all the stops to announce the birth of his Son. And to whom did he send his biggest, best choir of angels? To common people—shepherds! Not the media or Wall Street or Hollywood. The angels sang, Glory to God in the highest! The Creator entered his creation! He’s the best thing in the universe! He’s what you’re looking for! He is the only one who can save you and bring peace!

Do you hear the angels? Will you come and see this Christ? Come! Come adore him on bended knee and give glory to God in the highest!

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Romans 1:18-25

  1. What created things do you celebrate, value, and delight in more than God?
  2. Why is God worthy of highest glory? What is it about the birth of Messiah that shows his glory?
  3. How has the busyness of this Christmas season distracted you from true glory in God?
  4. Take some time to praise God for his glory. (Consider singing, “Angels We Have Heard on High”!)

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent

Categories
Life

What Kind of Peace on Earth?

Full disclosure: I love Christmas songs.  I especially love Christmas hymns.  One of my favorites is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Henry Longfellow.  The first verse goes like this:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Many Christmas songs talk about “peace,” and rightly so.  The night Jesus was born a new song of peace was recorded — one which Longfellow was inspired by: “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).

Thousands, if not millions, of angels sang to God’s glory on this night because a little baby would bring peace to earth. But Jesus didn’t come just to bring peace to a hectic life or war-torn countries or tense relationships. If that is all the peace you think Jesus brings, you are missing out on something great.

Jesus came to bring the ultimate peace: peace with our Creator, because we were at war with him because of our sin. The Bible says that we were God’s enemies (Rom. 5:8-10). There is no peace between enemies.  But God, our Creator, the one who we have infinitely offended, rebelled against, and declared war upon, came to earth in the form of a baby so that there might be a holy armistice.  It was as if God said, “Lay down your arms, my enemies, poor rebels! I will forgive your rebellion and bring you to myself as a friend.” Jesus was born so that one day he might die on a cross so that we might believe in him by faith and have peace with God (Rom. 5:1).

Christmas is truly about peace. It’s about Jesus bringing peace to the war that existed between God and his enemies, namely us.  Lay down your arms, Rebel, and flee to the arms of your peace-giving Savior.

Categories
Life Theology

What Lizard Needs to Be Killed in Your Life?

C.S. Lewis writes about the necessity to kill sin, and the pain that can come with it, in The Great Divorce:

I saw coming toward us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains

‘Of so soon?’ said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

‘Yes. I’m off,’ said the Ghost. ‘Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no god, you see. I told this little chap’ (here he indicated the Lizard) ‘that he’d have to be quiet if he came–which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.’

‘Would you like me to make him quiet?’ said the flaming Spirit–an angel, as I now understood.

‘Of course I would,’ said the Ghost.

‘Then I will kill him,’ said the Angel, taking a step forward.

‘Oh–ah–look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,’ said the Ghost, retreating.

‘Don’t you want him killed?’

‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.’

‘It’s the only way,’ said the angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. ‘Shall I kill it?’

‘Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here–well, it’s so damned embarrassing.’

‘May I kill it?’

‘Well, there’s time to discuss that later.’

‘There is no time. May I kill it?’

‘Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please–really–don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.’

‘May I kill it?’

‘Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.’

‘The gradual process is of no use at all.’

‘Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day. It would be most silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.’

‘There is no other day. All days are present now.’

‘Get back! You’re hurting me now.’

‘I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.’

‘Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by to-night’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.’

‘This moment contains all moments.’

‘Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me in pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me–before I knew? It would have all been over by now if you had.’

‘I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?’

The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.

‘Be careful,’ it said. ‘He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams–all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent…’

‘Have I your permission?’ said the Angel to the Ghost.

‘I know it will kill me.’

‘It won’t. But supposing it did?’

‘You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.’

‘Then I may?’

‘Damn and blast you! Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,’ bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, then flung it, broken-backed, on the turf.

I saw coming toward us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder.  Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ.  Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily.  What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear.  As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience.  ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said.  It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him.  He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile.  Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.

‘Of so soon?’ said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him.  His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

‘Yes.  I’m off,’ said the Ghost.  ‘Thanks for all your hospitality.  But it’s no god, you see.  I told this little chap’ (here he indicated the Lizard) ‘that he’d have to be quiet if he came–which he insisted on doing.  Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that.  But he won’t stop.  I shall just have to go home.’

‘Would you like me to make him quiet?’ said the flaming Spirit–an angel, as I now understood.

‘Of course I would,’ said the Ghost.

‘Then I will kill him,’ said the Angel, taking a step forward.

‘Oh–ah–look out!  You’re burning me.  Keep away,’ said the Ghost, retreating.

‘Don’t you want him killed?’

‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first.  I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.’

‘It’s the only way,’ said the angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard.  ‘Shall I kill it?’

‘Well, that’s a further question.  I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it?  I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here–well, it’s so damned embarrassing.’

‘May I kill it?’

‘Well, there’s time to discuss that later.’

‘There is no time.  May I kill it?’

‘Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance.  Please–really–don’t bother.  Look!  It’s gone to sleep of its own accord.  I’m sure it’ll be all right now.  Thanks ever so much.’

‘May I kill it?’

‘Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that.  I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now.  I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.’

‘The gradual process is of no use at all.’

‘Don’t you think so?  Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully.  I honestly will.  In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day.  It would be most silly to do it now.  I’d need to be in good health for the operation.  Some other day, perhaps.’

‘There is no other day.  All days are present now.’

‘Get back!  You’re hurting me now.’

‘I never said it wouldn’t hurt you.  I said it wouldn’t kill you.’

‘Oh, I know.  You think I’m a coward.  But it isn’t that.  Really it isn’t.  I say!  Let me run back by to-night’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor.  I’ll come again the first moment I can.’

‘This moment contains all moments.’

‘Why are you torturing me?  You are jeering at me.  How can I let you tear me in pieces?  If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me–before I knew?  It would have all been over by now if you had.’

‘I cannot kill it against your will.  It is impossible.  Have I your permission?’

The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite.  Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.

‘Be careful,’ it said.  ‘He can do what he says.  He can kill me.  One fatal word from you and he will!  Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever.  It’s not natural.  How could you live?  You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now.  He doesn’t understand.  He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing.  It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us.  Yes, yes.  I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams.  But aren’t they better than nothing?  And I’ll be so good.  I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again.  I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams–all sweet and fresh and almost innocent.  You might say, quite innocent…’

‘Have I your permission?’ said the Angel to the Ghost.

‘I know it will kill me.’

‘It won’t.  But supposing it did?’

‘You’re right.  It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.’

‘Then I may?’

‘Damn and blast you!   Go on, can’t you?  Get it over.  Do what you like,’ bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me.  God help me.”

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth.  The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, then flung it, broken-backed, on the turf.