Glory To God On High, And Peace on Earth Descend

By Steve Manskar

This hymn by Charles Wesley beautifully captures the meaning of the Incarnation of God celebrated in Christmas:

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Nativity Icon

This hymn by Charles Wesley beautifully captures the meaning of the Incarnation of God celebrated in Christmas:

Glory to God on high,
And peace on earth descend:
God comes down, he bows the sky,
And shows himself our friend:
God the invisible appears:
God, the blest, the great I AM,
Sojourn in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is his name.

Him the angels all adored,
Their Maker and their King;
Tidings of their humbled Lord
They now to mortals bring.
Emptied of his majesty,
Of his dazzling glories shown,
Being’s source begins to be,
And God himself is born!

See the eternal Son of God
A mortal son of man
Dwelling in an earthly clod
Whom heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, at this!
See the Lord of earth and skies;
Humbled to the dust he is,
And in a manger lies.

We, earth’s children, now rejoice,
The Prince of Peace proclaim;
With heaven’s host lift up our voice,
And shout Immanuel’s name:
Knees and hearts to him we bow;
Of our flesh and of our bone,
Jesus is our brother now,
And God is all our own.

The Nativity story contained in Luke 2 has become so familiar and sentimentalized that we forget what it tells us about God and the way God chooses to work in human history. God chose to become human and live as one of the vast majority of humankind, namely the poor, powerless, and oppressed peoples of the world. The Ruler of the Universe was born to a poor unmarried Jewish girl from a remote outpost of the Roman Empire known for insurrection. He was born in a barn and laid in a feed trough. The first witnesses to his birth were hard working, hard living shepherds; men who earned their living with the hands working with animals. The King of kings chose to be born and to live among the poor and oppressed peoples of the world. I think this means that in Jesus, God came to turn the world as we know it, as it currently exists, upside-down.

"O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer)