From Love Came Down
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest Heaven, and on Earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:8, 13-14)
The gratification of the great, the wealthy, and the gay was chiefly consulted in the late exhibitions in Westminster Abbey. But notwithstanding the expense of the preparations, and the splendid appearance of the auditory, I may take it for granted that the shepherds who were honored with the first information of the birth of the Messiah enjoyed at free cost a much more sublime and delightful entertainment. How poor and trivial is the most studied magnificence and brilliancy of an Earthly court compared with that effulgence of glory which surrounds the shepherds! The performers of this oratorio, if I may be allowed the expression, were a multitude of the Heavenly host. And though I do not suppose that the angel delivered the message in the cadence which is called recitative, I have no doubt that the chorus was a song, sweetly melodious as from blessed voices, a song which the redeemed and the angels of the Lord are still singing before the throne. A new song. A song which will always be new. We are made acquainted with the subject, indeed with the very words of this song. May our hearts be suitably affected by the consideration of them today!
The melody and harmony of Heaven are far above our conceptions. The music of that happy land has no dependence upon the vibrations of the air or the admirable structure of the human ear. But we have reason to believe that there is, in the world of light and love, something analogous to what we call music, though different in kind and vastly superior in effect to any strains that can be produced by the most exquisite voices and instruments upon Earth, as we readily judge the glory of the angel to be unspeakably more excellent both in kind and degree than anything that is deemed glorious among mortals.
Assuredly this song of the Heavenly host is not the language of our hearts by nature. We once sought our pleasure and happiness in a very different way. We were indifferent to the glory of God and strangers to God’s peace. And some of us are still blind to the excellencies of the gospel and deaf to its gracious invitation. But we must not expect to sing with the great company of the redeemed hereafter before the throne of glory unless we learn and love their song while we are here. Those who attain to the inheritance of the saints in light are first made meet for it in the present life and in this way. They believe the testimony of the scripture respecting their own guilt, unworthiness, and helplessness; then they receive the record which God has given of the Son. They renounce all “confidence in the flesh,” (Philippians 3:3), they rejoice in Christ Jesus, and from his fullness they derive grace to worship God in the Spirit. A sense of their obligations to the Savior disposes them to praise him now as they can, and they rejoice in hope of seeing him before long as he is, and that then they shall praise him as they ought. For Heaven itself, as described in the Word of God, could not be a state of happiness to us unless we are like-minded with the apostle to “regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” (Philippians 3:8).