Great Texts of the Bible
Good Tidings of Great Joy
And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.—Luke 2:10-11.
1. To the evangelist and to Christian faith the coming of Jesus into the world is the great event in its history. We divide time into the Christian era and the era before Christ. Yet we cannot be sure of the very year when Christ was born, any more than of the very year when He died; and though St. Luke was anxious to date the birth precisely, as we see from Luke 2:1-2, there are unsolved difficulties connected with the census which we have simply to acknowledge. That the Day-spring from on high visited the world to give light to them that sit in darkness is undoubted, though we may not be able to tell the hour of its rising.
The narrative of St. Luke is the most wonderful and beautiful in Holy Scripture, and has always touched the hearts of men. Not that Christmas, as we call it, was from the beginning the great festival of believers. On the contrary, the great festival of the early Church was Easter, the day of the resurrection. It was not till the thirteenth century that the infant Christ and the manger came to have the place they now hold in the thoughts and affections of Christians, and this was greatly due to the influence of Francis of Assisi, who visited Bethlehem and wept with holy joy over the lowly birth of the Saviour. He diffused his own devotion when he returned to Italy, and great artists found in the stable and the manger, the ox and the ass (borrowed from Isaiah 1:3), the mother and the Child, the shepherds and the angels, the highest inspirations of their genius.
2. It is long since the shepherds near Bethlehem beheld in the clear eastern sky the glory of the Lord, and heard the voice of the heavenly messenger proclaiming, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Centuries have rolled by, but the lustre of that night has not passed away. The tones of that message have been caught and repeated by an increasing number of God-sent messengers. They swell in volume and majesty and power until now from all parts of the world the grand chorus resounds, filling the air with its message of joy and hope and faith and love, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
1. The Shepherds
There were many great men and many wealthy men in Palestine. There were scholars of the most profound and various learning. There were lean ascetics who had left the joys of home, and gone away to pray and fast in deserts. But it was not to any of these that the angels came, and it was not in their ears that the music sounded; the greatest news that the world ever heard was given to a group of humble shepherds. Few sounds from the mighty world ever disturbed them. They were not vexed by any ambition to be famous. They passed their days amid the silence of nature; and to the Jew nature was the veil of God. They were men of a devout and reverent spirit, touched with a sense of the mystery of things, as shepherds are so often to this day. Is it not to such simple and reverent spirits that God still reveals Himself in amplest measure? How fitting it was, too, that shepherds should be chosen, when we remember how the Twenty-third Psalm begins, and when we reflect that the Babe born in Bethlehem was to be the Good Shepherd giving His life for the sheep.
The Lord manifested to the sage, the sovereign, is now manifest to the shepherd. This last was peculiarly significant of the genius of Christianity. The people need Christ. They have their share of sin, suffering, sorrow. They deeply need the grace, consolations, and strengthening of the Gospel. The people are capable of Christ. Without the intellectual distinction of the Magi, or the social eminence of Herod, they have the essential greatness of soul which renders them capable of Christ and of His greatest gifts. The people rejoice in Christ. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.” From that day to this a new glory has shone on all common scenes, a new joy has filled the common heart that has been opened to the Prince of Peace, the Saviour of the World.1 [Note: W. L. Watkinson, The Gates of Dawn, 357.]
2. The Place
It is generally supposed that these anonymous shepherds were residents of Bethlehem; and tradition has fixed the exact spot where they were favoured with this Advent Apocalypse—about a thousand paces from the modern village. It is a historic fact that there was a tower near that site, called Eder, or “the Tower of the Flock,” around which were pastured the flocks destined for the Temple sacrifice; but the topography of Luke 2:8 is purposely vague. The expression, “in that same country,” would describe any circle within the radius of a few miles from Bethlehem as its centre, and the very vagueness of the expression seems to push back the scene of the Advent music to a farther distance than a thousand paces. And this view is confirmed by the language of the shepherds themselves, who, when the vision has faded, say one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass”; for they scarcely would have needed, or used, the adverbial “even” were they keeping their flocks so close up to the walls of the city. We may therefore infer, with some amount of probability, that, whether the shepherds were residents of Bethlehem or not, when they kept watch over their flocks, it was not on the traditional site, but farther away over the hills.
It is difficult, and very often impossible, for us to fix the precise locality of these sacred scenes, these bright points of intersection, where Heaven’s glories flash out against the dull carbon-points of earth; and the voices of tradition are at best but doubtful guesses. It would almost seem as if God Himself had wiped out these memories, hiding them away, as He hid the sepulchre of Moses, lest the world should pay them too great a homage, and lest we might think that one place lay nearer to Heaven than another, when all places are equally distant, or rather equally near. It is enough to know that somewhere on these lonely hills came the vision of the angels, perhaps on the very spot where David was minding his sheep when Heaven summoned him to a higher task, passing him up among the kings.1 [Note: Henry Burton.]
3. The Time
The time is significant. Night is the parent of holy thought,—the nurse of devout aspiration. Its darkness is often the chosen time for heavenly illumination. When earth is dark, heaven glows. The world was shrouded in night when Christ came, and into the thickest of its “gross darkness” His light burst. Yet the unobtrusiveness of His appearance, and the blending of secrecy with the manifestation of His power, are well typified by that glory which shone in the night, and was seen only by two or three poor men. The Highest came to His own in quietness, and almost stole into the world, and the whole life was of a piece with the birth and its announcement. There was the “hiding of His power.”
Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a dullness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.
Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answering music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.2 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, Verses, 54.]
4. How simply the appearance of the single angel and the glory of the Lord is told! The evangelist thinks it the most natural thing in the world that heaven should send out its inhabitant on such an errand, and that the symbol of the Divine presence should fill the night with sudden splendour, which paled the bright Syrian stars. So it was, if that birth were what he tells us it was—the coming into human life of the manifest Deity. If we think of what he is telling, his quiet tone is profoundly impressive. The Incarnation is the great central miracle, the object of devout wonder to “principalities … in heavenly places.” And not only do angels come to herald and to adore, but “the glory of the Lord,” that visible brightness which was the token of God’s presence between the cherubim and had been hid in the secret of the sanctuary while it shone, but which had for centuries been absent from the Temple, now blazes with undestructive light on the open hillside, and encircles them and the friendly angel by their side. What did that mean but that the birth of Jesus was the highest revelation of God, henceforth not to be shut within the sanctuary, but to be the companion of common lives, and to make all sacred by its presence? The glory of God shines where Christ is, and where it shines is the temple.
And now the day draws nigh when Christ was born;
The day that showed how like to God Himself
Man had been made, since God could be revealed
By one that was a man with men, and still
Was one with God the Father; that men might
By drawing nigh to Him draw nigh to God,
Who had come near to them in tenderness.1 [Note: G. MacDonald, “Within and Without” (Poetical Works, i. 52).]
The Preface to the Message
“Be not afraid.” This was the first bidding sent from heaven to men when Jesus Christ was born. It was no new message of reassurance; again and again in a like need a like encouragement had been vouchsafed: to Abraham, to Isaac, to Gideon, to Daniel, to Zacharias, the same tranquillizing, helpful words had come from the considerateness and gentleness that are on high. But to the shepherds of Bethlehem they came with a new power and significance. For now they had their final warrant upon earth; those attributes of God, those truths of the Divine Nature upon which the bidding rested, had their perfect expression now in a plain fact of human history. The birth of Jesus Christ was the answer, the solvent for such fears as rushed upon the shepherds when “the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” They feared, as the mystery and stillness of the night were broken by that strange invasion, what might follow it. “And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Within that glory was the love of God; and all that it might disclose must come from Him who so loved the world that He had sent His Son to be born, to suffer, and to die for men. There must, indeed, be awe in coming near to God, in realizing how near He comes to us: but it is like the awe with which even earthly goodness, greatness, wisdom at their highest touch us; it is not like our terror of that which is arbitrary and unaccountable. God dwells in depths of burning light, such as the eyes of sinful men can never bear: but the light itself, with all it holds, streams forth from love, and is instinct, informed, aglow with love.
These words which the angel spoke were but anticipations of the words with which Jesus Himself has made us familiar. They were His favourite words. He might have borrowed them from the angel, or more likely given them to the angel in advance. We hear from His own lips continually—“Fear not.” He meets us at every turn of life with that cheery invocation. He passed through His ministry day by day repeating it. It was the watchword of His journey and warfare. The disciples heard it every time they were troubled, cast down, and afraid. When they fell at His feet trembling, He lifted them up with the words “Fear not!” When their ship was sinking in the storm, they heard the cry “Fear not!” When they shivered at the thought of all the foes and dangers which awaited them, there came reassurance with the voice, “Fear not, little flock.” When He was leaving them, one of His last words was: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Christ has been speaking that word ever since. He came to speak it. He came to deliver man from those fears. He smiles upon our fears to-day. He almost laughs them away in the sunshine of His power and confidence. The Incarnation is God’s answer to human gloom, despondency, and pessimism. What are you afraid of? it says. Am I not with you always to the end? And all power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth. You are afraid of your sins? Fear not! I am able to save to the uttermost. You are afraid of the world, the flesh, and the devil? Fear not! I have overcome the world, and cast out the prince of the world. You are afraid of your own weakness? Fear not! All things are possible to him that believeth. You are afraid of life’s changes and uncertainties? Fear not! The Father hath given all things into My hands. You are afraid of death and bereavement? Fear not! I have conquered and abolished death. You are afraid of all the ominous signs of the times, the perils of religion and the shakings of the Church? Fear not! I am the first, the last, the Almighty, and the rock against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.1 [Note: J. G. Greenhough, Christian Festivals and Anniversaries, 207.]
Thought could not go on much longer with its over-emphasis of the Atonement and its under-emphasis of the Incarnation without losing its relation to human society. The Atonement, as something done for and upon man, leaving him not an actor but a receiver, threw him out of gear with the modern idea of personality. This idea was rather to be found in the Incarnation, the inmost meaning of which is Divine Fatherhood and obedient Sonship. It means Christ, not dying for man to fill out some demand of government, but living in man in order to develop his Divineness, or, as Bushnell phrased it, that he might become “Christed.” It was getting to be seen that whatever Christianity is to do for man must be done through the Incarnation; that is, through the oneness of God and humanity, the perfect realization of which is to be found in the Christ.2 [Note: T. T. Munger, Horace Bushnell, 399.]
2. Universal joy
The angel’s message matches with the Jewish minds he addresses. The great joy he proclaims is to be, not for all people, but for all the people—that is, Israel; the Saviour who has been born in David’s city is the Messianic King for whom Israel was waiting. This was not all the truth, but it was as much as the shepherds could take in.
The Jews said, There is a Gospel—to the Jews. And when the Gospel went out beyond the Jews the Roman Catholic Church said, There is a Gospel—to the baptized. And they collected them together by the thousand in India, and sprinkled water on them, so as to give them a chance to be saved. Calvin, who has been condemned for his doctrine of election, by it broadened out the Church idea of salvation. When men said, Only Jews can be saved, when men said, Only the baptized can be saved, Calvin said, Anyone can be saved. It is for those who have been baptized, and for those who have not been baptized; it is for those who are Jews, and for those who are Gentiles; it is for those who are old enough to accept the Gospel, and it is for the little children not old enough to accept the Gospel. God can save anyone He will. That is the doctrine of election. And now we are growing to a broader view than this. It is not for the Jew only, but for the Gentile; not for the baptized only, but also for the unbaptized; not for the elect only, but for the non-elect, if there could be any non-elect; not only for those who have heard it, but for those who have not heard it. This is the message of glad tidings and joy which shall be for all people. It is salvation for “all people.”1 [Note: L. Abbott, in Christian Age, xli. (1892) 84.]
How could I tell my joy to my brother if it were not a universal joy? I can tell my grief to the glad, but not my gladness to the grieving. I dare not spread my banquet at the open window, where the hungry are passing by. Therefore, oh! my Father, I rejoice that Thou hast sent into my heart a ray of glory which is not alone for me. I rejoice that Thou hast given me a treasure which I need not hide from my brother. I rejoice that the light which sparkles in my pool is not from the candle, but from the moon. The candle is for me, but the moon is for all. Put out my candle, oh! my Father. Extinguish the joy that is proud of being unshared. Lower the lamp which shines only on my own mirror. Let down the lights that make a wall between myself and the weary. And over the darkness let there rise the star—Bethlehem’s star, humanity’s star, the star that shines for one because it shines for all.2 [Note: G. Matheson, Searchings in the Silence, 52.]
1. “There is born … a Saviour.” A Saviour! What a thrill of joy must have shot through the hearts of these astonished men as they listened to the word of wondrous import. A Saviour! Then indeed man is to be saved! Through the long, dark, weary ages man had been groaning in miserable captivity to the tyrant powers of sin, and nothing was more evident than this, that he had lost all power of saving himself. Now, at last, another is going to undertake his helpless cause. He who of old heard the cry of the Israelites in Egypt under the taskmaster’s whip, and saw the anguish of their heart while they toiled under the cruel bondage of Pharaoh—He who sent them a saviour in the person of Moses, and who subsequently again and again delivered them from their enemies by raising up a Saviour for them, He had at length undertaken the cause of ruined humanity, and was about to deliver a sin-bound world. A Saviour, and the champion of our race, was actually born and in their midst, ready soon to enter on His mysterious conflict, and to work out a complete deliverance, a full salvation. This was indeed glad tidings of great joy. This was the dawning of a new epoch. The Day-spring from on high was surely visiting a darkened, sin-shadowed world.
The birth of any man child is an interesting event—another added to the many million lives, to the multitude which none can number, who are to stand before the judgment-seat of God; another life from the birth-source, which shall flow on through the channel of mortal life, the gulf of death, and the underground channel of the grave, to the boundless ocean of eternity:—for, once born, one must hold on to think, and live, and feel for ever. Such is the birth of every one who has his time to be born behind him, and his time to die before him still. But how intensely interesting the birth of that child whose name is called “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,” but for whose birth we all must have died eternally, and but for whose birth, it would have been better none of us had been born.1 [Note: Life of Robertson of Irvine (by A. Guthrie), 256.]
Christ goes out into the world. He heals the sick, He feeds the hungry, He comforts the afflicted. But in all the healing and helping this one message He repeats, in different forms, over and over again: “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” They let down a paralytic through the roof of a house before Him, and this is His message: “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” A woman kneels before Him and washes His feet with her tears and wipes them with the hairs of her head, and this is His message: “Go in peace, and sin no more.” They nail Him to the cross, and His prayer breathes the same message: “Father, forgive them.” There hangs by the side of Him a brigand who has gone through sins of murder and robbery. He looks upon him with compassion, and says: “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” He is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is more than healing the sick, more than feeding the hungry, more than clothing the naked, more than educating the ignorant; this is taking off the great burden under which humanity has been crushed.1 [Note: Lyman Abbott.]
2. “There is born … Christ.” He was born the Messiah, the Anointed One of Israel. To Israel He came fulfilling all the ancient covenant promises, and bringing with Him the “tender mercies of our God.” He is that Seed of the woman announced and promised to Adam and Eve in the garden, whose mission it was to bruise the serpent’s head. He was and is that Seed of Abraham “in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed”, of whom Balaam prophesied and said, “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.” He was and is the One whose day Abraham saw afar off and was glad. He was and is that Wonderful Counsellor of whom Isaiah prophesied, the root out of a dry ground, whose “visage was so marred more than any man”; who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, on whom the Lord caused all our iniquities to meet; the “prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren” whom Moses foresaw and whom he bade all Israel hear; the Stem of Jesse; the Branch of Zechariah; the Messenger of the Covenant and the Sun of Righteousness, arising with healing in His wings, whom Malachi foretold as being nigh. He is the sum and substance of all the ceremonial sacrifices and feasts of the Jews; in a word, He is that One of whom Moses in the Law and all the prophets did speak and all the Psalmists sang.
He might have come in regal pomp,
With pealing of Archangel trump—
An angel blast as loud and dread
As that which shall awake the dead …
He came not thus; no earthquake shock
Shiver’d the everlasting rock;
No trumpet blast nor thunder peal
Made earth through all her regions reel;
And but for the mysterious voicing
Of that unearthly choir rejoicing;
And but for that strange herald gem,
The star which burned o’er Bethlehem,
The shepherds, on His natal morn,
Had known not that the God was born.
There were no terrors, for the song
Of peace rose from the seraph throng;
On wings of love He came—to save,
To pluck pale terror from the grave,
And on the blood-stain’d Calvary
He won for man the victory.1 [Note: N. T. Carrington.]
3. “There is born … the Lord.”
(1) In the Child born at Bethlehem we find God.—How steadily do the angel’s words climb upwards, as it were, from the cradle to the throne. He begins with the lowly birth, and then rises, step by step, each word opening a wider and more wonderful prospect, to “that climax beyond which there is nothing—that this infant is “the Lord.” The full joy and tremendous wonder of the first word are not felt till we read the last. The birth is the birth of “the Lord.” We cannot give any but the highest meaning to that sacred name, which could have but one meaning to a Jew. It was much that there was born a Saviour—much that there was born a Messiah. Men need a deliverer, and the proclamation here is best kept in its widest meaning—as of one who sets free from all ills outward and inward, and brings all outward and inward good. The Saviour of men must be a man, and therefore it is good news that He is born. It was much that Messiah should be born. The fulfilment of the wistful hopes of many generations, the accomplishment of prophecy, the Divine communication of the Spirit which fitted kings and priests of old for their work, the succession to David’s throne, were all declared in that one announcement that the Christ was born in David’s city. But that last word, “the Lord,” crowns the wonder and the blessing, while it lays the only possible foundation for the other two names.
If, on the one hand, man’s Saviour must be man, on the other, He must be more than man; and nothing short of a Divine man can heal the wounds of mankind, or open a fountain of blessing sufficient for their needs. Unless God become man, there can be no Saviour; nor can there be any Christ. For no mere humanity can bear the full gift of the Divine Spirit, which is Messiah’s anointing for His office, nor discharge that office in all its depth and breadth. Many in this day try to repeat the angel’s message, and leave out the last word, and then they wonder that it stirs little gladness and works no salvation. Let us be sure that, unless the birth at Bethlehem was the Incarnation of Deity, it would have called forth no angel songs, nor will it work any deliverance or bring any joy to men.
A God in the sky will never satisfy men and women upon earth. God on the mountain will never suffice man on the plain. True, it is much, very much, to know that God is in heaven, “The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity,” above earth’s petty discords and changing views and selfish passions. But this falls short, pitiably short, of man’s demands. It is, at best, an icy creed, and not, by itself, the warm, loving creed of the Christian. For it leaves a gulf between God and man, with no bridge to pass over. It is the difference between Olympus and Olivet. What—so the heart will ask—is the good of a God “above the bright blue sky,” when I am down here upon earth? What intimatcy can there be between “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” and an earth-born being such as I am? How could the missionaries persuade men that such a God loved them, cared for them, felt with them? How, indeed, could God Himself so persuade men, save by coming and living among them, sharing their lives, experiencing their temptations, drinking the “vinegar and gall” which they drank, suffering in the flesh as they suffered? There was no other way. Hence the Incarnation. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
It is related of a celebrated musician that, when asked to compose a National Anthem for the people of another country, he went and lived with them, studied them from within, shared their poverty, became one with them that he might become one of them, and was thus, and only thus, enabled to express their feelings in his music. This is what God did at the Incarnation.1 [Note: E. E. Holmes, The Days of the Week, 42.]
When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the finite met the Infinite—the temporal, the Eternal. Heaven and earth coalesced, not in semblance, but in reality; not by proxy, but in the wonderful Person that combined the highest characteristics of both. In Him all fulness—the fulness of the Creator and the fulness of the creature—dwelt bodily. All things were gathered together in one in Him—both those which are in the heavens and those which are in the earth—even in Him. His Incarnation was the crowning miracle of grace, as the creation of man was the crowning miracle of nature.1 [Note: H. Macmillan, The Garden and the City, 32.]
“If Moslems,” Lull argued, “according to their law affirm that God loved man because He created him, endowed him with noble faculties, and pours His benefits upon him, then the Christians according to their law affirm the same. But inasmuch as the Christians believe more than this, and affirm that God so loved man that He was willing to become man, to endure poverty, ignominy, torture, and death for his sake, which the Jews and Saracens do not teach concerning Him, therefore is the religion of the Christians, which thus reveals a Love beyond all other love, superior to that of those which reveals it only in an inferior degree.” Islam is a loveless religion. Raymund Lull believed and proved that Love could conquer it. The Koran denies the Incarnation, and so remains ignorant of the true character not only of the Godhead but of God.2 [Note: S. M. Zwemer, Raymund Lull, 140.]
We make far too little of the Incarnation; the Fathers knew much more of the incarnate God. Some of them were oftener at Bethlehem than at Calvary; they had too little of Calvary, but they knew Bethlehem well. They took up the Holy Babe in their arms; they loved Immanuel, God with us. We are not too often at the cross; but we are too seldom at the cradle; and we know too little of the Word made flesh, of the Holy Child Jesus.3 [Note: “Rabbi” Duncan, in Recollections by A. Moody Stuart, 167.]
(2) Though Divine yet is He human.—Behold what manner of love God hath bestowed upon us that He should espouse our nature! For God had never so united Himself with any creature before. His tender mercy had ever been over all His works; but they were still so distinct from Himself that a great gulf was fixed between the Creator and the created, so far as existence and relationship are concerned. The Lord had made many noble intelligences, principalities, and powers of whom we know little; we do not even know what those four living creatures may be who are nearest the Eternal Presence; but God had never taken up the nature of any of them, nor allied Himself with them by any actual union with His Person. He has, however, allied Himself with man: He has come into union with man, and therefore He loves him unutterably well and has great thoughts of good towards him.
The fact that such intimate union of the Divine with the human is possible unveils the essential Godlikeness of man. His nature is capable of receiving Divine indwelling. There is such affinity between God and him that the fulness of the Godhead can dwell bodily in a man. Christianity has often been accused of gloomy, depressing views of human nature; but where, in all the dreams of superficial exalters of manhood, is there anything so radiant with hope as the solid fact that the eternal Son of God has said of it, “Here will I dwell, for I have desired it”? Christianity has no temptation to varnish over the dark realities of man as he is, for it knows its power to make him what he was meant to be.
So we have to look on the child Christ as born “to give the world assurance of a man,” or, in modern phraseology, to realize the ideal of human nature. That birth in the manger was the first appearance of the shoot from the dry stump of the Davidic house, which was to flower into “a plant of renown,” and fill the world with its beauty and fragrance. One thinks of the “loveliness of perfect deeds,” the continual submission to the loved will of the Father, the tranquillity unbroken, the uninterrupted self-suppression, the gentle immobility of resolve, the gracious words, bright with heavenly wisdom, warm with pure love, throbbing with quick pity, as one gazes on the “young child,” and would, with the strangers from the East, bring homage and offerings thither. There is the dawn of a sun without a spot; the headwaters of a mighty stream without stain or perturbation in all its course.
The story tells us that Christ Himself was as poor and as unfamed as the shepherds—yet all Heaven was with Him. No trumpet-flourish told His coming, no posts rode swift from town to town to announce His Kingship. Earth and its glory took no notice of One who was laid in a manger. But far above in the world beyond, where earthly glory hath no praise, and earth no power, and rank no dignity, the Child who lived to love and die for men, was celebrated among the heavenly host. All the courts of Heaven began to praise God for the little Child for whom there was no shelter on earth but a cave in the rocks, Christianity has restored humanity to Man 1:1 [Note: Stopford A. Brooke, Sunshine and Shadow, 191.]
“What means that star,” the Shepherds said,
“That brightens through the rocky glen?”
And angels, answering overhead,
Sang, “Peace on earth, good-will to men!”
’Tis eighteen hundred years and more
Since those sweet oracles were dumb;
We wait for Him, like them of yore;
Alas, He seems so slow to come!
But it was said, in words of gold
No time or sorrow e’er shall dim,
That little children might be bold
In perfect trust to come to Him.
All round about our feet shall shine
A light like that the wise men saw,
If we our loving wills incline
To that sweet Life which is the Law.
So shall we learn to understand
The simple faith of shepherds then,
And, clasping kindly hand in hand,
Sing, “Peace on earth, good-will to men!”
And they who do their souls no wrong,
But keep at eve the faith of morn,
Shall daily hear the angel-song,
“To-day the Prince of Peace is born!”2 [Note: J. R. Lowell, A Christmas Carol.]
Good Tidings of Great Joy
Aitken (W. H. M. H.), The Revealer Revealed, 1.
Alexander (W.), Leading Ideas of the Gospels, 148.
Askew (E. A.), The Service of Perfect Freedom, 32.
Austin (G. B.), The Beauty of Goodness, 202.
Blake (R. E.), Good News from Heaven, 1.
Brooke (S. A.), The Kingship of Love, 215.
Carter (T. T.), Meditations on the Hidden Life of our Lord, i. 44.
Channing (W. E.), The Perfect Life, 215.
Collins (W.E.), Hours of Insight, 124.
Craigie (J. A.), The Country Pulpit, 49.
Doney (C. G.), The Throne-Room of the Soul, 95.
Ellicott (C. J.), Sermons at Gloucester, 11.
Greenhough (J. G.), Christian Festivals and Anniversaries, 204.
Hancock (T.), The Pulpit and the Press, 41.
Hare (J. C.), Sermons Preacht in Herstmonceux Church, ii. 167.
Harper (F.), A Year with Christ, 14.
Leathes (A. S.), The Kingdom Within, 1, 15.
Macmillan (H.), The Garden and the City, 31.
Marjoribanks (T.), The Fulness of the Godhead, 44.
Massillon (J. B.), Sermons, 407.
Miller (J.), Sermons Literary and Scientific, i. 211.
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