God always watches over His word to fulfill it. Christmas Eve was no exception. The birth of Jesus fulfilled more than one ancient promise. When the angels sang it was the answer to an ancient prayer.
A few minutes ago, we read about the shepherds who were surprised by Angels that were singing God’s praise because a boy had just been born in the nearby city of Bethlehem. They called him “A Savior, Christ the Lord.”
Those of you who are watching this have heard the story every Christmas. Some of you have heard it so often that, like Linus, you could recite it from memory.
You also know that Christ’s birth was the fulfillment of an ancient promise. Let’s talk about that promise for a minute.
About 1000 years before Christ was born God promised David that the savior of the world would come from his line and inherit his throne. King David had wanted to build a permanent temple for the worship of God. But God had told him no, that He would build David a house, that is a dynasty that would continue forever.
David’s descendants reigned in Jerusalem for more than 400 years. But because many of the later kings, priests, and people chose to serve other gods, the LORD handed them over to Babylon. And, after a long siege, most of the surviving population was relocated, and the nation ceased to exist.
About 70 years later, Babylon had fallen, and a faithful remnant of God’s people began to return. Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt. But the people of God were no longer living in an independent nation. They were part of a larger empire and they had no king.
So, for 500 years it appeared that God had abandoned his promise to David. But had that been true, Jesus would never have been born.
In Psalm 89, the writer complains
“O lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David?”Psalm 89:44
He also says,
“You have rejected, you have spurned, you have been very angry with your anointed one. You have renounced the covenant with your servant and have defiled his crown in the dust.”Psalm 89:38-39
Can you see why the birth of the Christ would be such a big deal in heaven? Why the songs of the angels had to be shared with someone, even though it had to be done in way that would not disrupt God’s plan for his Son who needed to grow up in obscurity and remain unknown until he was ready to begin his work?
Even though the Psalmist complains that it appears God has not kept his promise, he begins his Psalm with an expression of faith.
I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.” You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever and build your throne for all generations.’”Psalm 89:1-4
In short, though he cannot see how God will fulfill his promise to David, he believes that God will do so.
Then, the Psalm continues:
Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! Psalm89:5
I’d like to suggest that the angels’ songs in the fields near Bethlehem were an answer to this prayer that had been sung in the temple for centuries.
The angels sang and rejoiced that God’s promises concerning the Christ had begun to be fulfilled. The child the shepherds ran to see that night was the king that God had promised.
The angel Gabriel had said of him:
The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”Luke 1:32-33
Isaiah had named him, “Immanuel,” that is, “God with us.” And had said of him:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.Isaiah 9:6-7
Of course, this child was more than just a future king. He would be the savior who would redeem his people by his blood and create peace between God and believers everywhere. As the angel told the shepherds that first Christmas Eve, the Christ child was their savior.
After Jesus had taught the people of God, suffered, and died, he rose and ascended into heaven, where he reigns forever over all things. David’s tiny kingdom was too small a reward for the things he accomplished for all peoples. God seated him at his right hand in power and gave him all the nations of the world. He is king of kings and Lord of Lords. He continues to be acknowledged by leaders of many nations as their God and Lord.
So, Christ’s birth was not the only reason the angels sang. The promise of one who would save us from our sins was far older than the promise to David. That promise, too, has been and is still being fulfilled as person after person hears the good news concerning Christ Jesus.
This same Jesus will one day return to raise the dead and put an end to all evil. This promise is also ancient and at times it appears that God has abandoned it. But God is faithful and patient. When the right time comes Christ will return and fulfill those promises just as overwhelmingly as he fulfilled the promise to David.
And then it won’t be just the angels singing. All of creation will join in the chorus. Psalm 148 calls upon angels, men, all creatures, and even the earth itself to join in praising God. It begins
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;Psalm 148:1-2
praise him, all his hosts!
And after calling upon the oceans and the earth and the creatures that inhabit it to praise God, the Psalm ends
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!Psalm 148:11-14
But we don’t need to wait until Christ returns to praise our God. For he has already done the great things we confess in the creeds.
We praise him because He created the heavens and the earth and you and me.
We praise him for sending his Son to be born of virgin, to suffer under Pontius Pilate, to be crucified, die, and be buried for us, and to rise and ascend into heaven to open the way to God for us.
We praise him for the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the church and the people that comprise it, for the baptism, the forgiveness of sins, and the promise that we will rise to eternal life.
Though the end may seem long delayed, though times may be bleak as people struggle with loneliness, illness, depression, and natural disasters, the things we confess in the creeds remain true.
And so, we praise Him and wait with patience for the things still to come.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.