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“Words and Sayings of the Season:
Gloria in Excelsis Deo & Peace on Earth”
Luke 2:13-14

 

Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Advent Service III—December 19, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

During Advent this year our sermon series is on “Words and Sayings of the Season,” explaining the Biblical background and meaning of words and sayings that we commonly hear, and say ourselves, this time of year.  This evening we conclude this series with, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo & Peace on Earth,” based on this passage from the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2: “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, good will toward men.’”

There’s a book about the funny ways cell phones autocorrect text messages.  One girl thought she sent a message to her mother that said, “Remember I have choir at 5:30 and then you have to take me to zumba,” but it came out, “Remember I have choir at 5:30 and then you have to take me to Zimbabwe.”  A father discussing his birthday presents tried to tell his daughter, “Your brother gave me Ray Bans,” but the autocorrect changed it to, “Your brother gave me rabies.”  One man complaining about his job meant to text his friends, “Help, I’m stuck inside a cubicle,” but it came out, “Help, I’m stuck inside a creamsicle.”

At the end of the service this evening we’ll sing a favorite Christmas carol with the refrain, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”  But, if you type “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” into a phone or computer, it gets really confused and suggests all sorts of other interesting words and phrases instead, like “Glory in Excessive Duo” or “Gloomy in Excalibur Diego.” 

That’s because “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” isn’t English but a Latin expression.  “Gloria” of course means “glory”; “Excelsis” means “greatest” or “highest,” like the words “excel” and “excellent”; and “Deo” is the Latin word for “God,” from which we get “deity.”  So, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” means “Glory to God in the Highest.”  This biblical expression, which is also part of our Liturgy, comes from the announcement of the angels to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The Hebrew and Greek words “glory” and “glorify” mean to acknowledge and give to God the praise due his majesty.  But, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men . . .  for although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. . . they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [idols].”

All of us must confess that we deserve the wrath of God, because in our lives we do not give God the glory his majesty demands.   Instead, we self-centeredly redirect the glory due to God to ourselves, and to the idols of our pleasures and possessions.  Spiritually, we are often change things around like those spellcheckers.  For, the Bible says in Revelation, “Fear God and give him glory,” but our internal sinful spellchecker changes that to, “Ignore God and focus on yourself.”

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men . . .  for although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. . . they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [idols].”  We all deserve the wrath of God, because in our lives we do not give God the glory his majesty demands.   But, the angel announces to the shepherds Good News for you and all of humankind: “Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. . . Glory to God in the highest.”

That’s the Good News we celebrate at Christmas.  God sent his own Son, Christ the Lord, to be your Savior.  Because of his blessed birth, his perfect life, his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, your sins are all forgiven.  Give God the glory, for his grace and goodness to you in Christ Jesus.  Give God the glory, this Christmas, and throughout your life.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”   We hear a lot about “peace on earth, good will toward men” this time of year.  But, the angels’ announcement really wasn’t about a temporary attitude of humans toward one another for a few weeks because of a holiday.  It’s a heavenly proclamation of the greatest Good News: God’s permanent attitude toward all of humanity because of his Son.  As Paul says in Romans, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Peace on earth, good will toward men” is God’s Christmas gift to you.  You are at peace with God, on account of his Son, born into our world as the Babe of Bethlehem.

“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. . .  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Amen.

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