Wisdom 18:14-15, Luke 2:1-20: The Word of God Descended from Heaven’s Royal Throne

Nativity of our Lord2“It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold: ‘Peace on the earth, goodwill to all, from heaven’s all-gracious King!’  The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing” (LSB 366).

Angels sang that night when Christ was born.  Indeed, when peaceful stillness lay over all, the angels pierced the night in glorious song, telling the shepherds that the Christ-Child was born.  They, the angels, had done it before, when God created the world.  That was when “the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).

It was a quiet and peaceful night when our Lord was born.  It was as the Lutheran liturgy for the Christmas midnight service and as the Old-Testament book of Wisdom tell us: “When peaceful stillness lay over all, and the night was half spent, your almighty Word, O Lord, descended from heaven’s royal throne” (Wisdom 18:14-15).

And so the Christmas hymns we love, also tell forth that truth: Christ’s birth “came upon a midnight clear,” on a “silent night,” “when half spent was the night.”  Indeed, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.”

But those words that when “the night was half spent” and the “Word,” the “Lord, descended from heaven’s royal throne,” first spoke of God coming to earth to deliver His people from their bondage in Egypt.  That night in Egypt seemed like any other night.  The Egyptians would’ve never guessed what was coming.  But the Angel of the Lord descended to earth to free His people.  Pharaoh, the king of Egypt then awoke, for he “got up during the night, he, all his officials, and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry” in the land (Exodus 12:30).

Yet, as Jesus tells us, all the Old-Testament Scriptures testify of Him (John 5:19).  And so, centuries later, another sound would pierce the stillness of a half-spent night: the cry of a newborn baby.  Once more, the world slumbered, not suspecting that all would soon change.  This time, the Word of God in the flesh would come among us.  The first “descended from Heaven’s royal throne” to slay kin and cattle; the second came forth to kill death itself.  Indeed, in Christ, the “creation itself would also be set free from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21).

“When peaceful stillness lay over all, and the night was half spent, Your almighty Word, O Lord, descended from heaven’s royal throne.”  Bethlehem was quiet and dark when Mary brought forth the Firstborn, her Son, God in the flesh.  It was as if all of creation was waiting on tiptoe to peer into the stable to glimpse the One prophesied from ancient times.

Who will get a glimpse of the baby?  Will kings see Him; will royalty or those in power or authority?  Who will have the honor of receiving the newborn King of the Universe?  Who will receive the privilege and prize?

The world sat in the deep darkness of sin.  Fear and death held sway, for the Light and Life of the world had not yet come.  Stillness shrouded the earth, for this shadow of death covered all the people.  But the “people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).  This darkness, this shadow of sin and death, looked as if it had held the entire world in its thrall.  But it was not so.

“When peaceful stillness lay over all, and the night was half spent, Your almighty Word, O Lord, descended from heaven’s royal throne.”  Mary brought forth her Son, the Firstborn, in the middle of the night, in the darkness of our sin and death.  He came into the world to bring light, the true light of the one-and-only Son of the Father.  He came to bring the light and to shine, so all could see the Life that He is and the life that He gives.  The people walking in darkness HAVE seen a great light, the light coming from God Himself!

Marvel at this great wonder: The Son of God, the Prince of the universe, He who has untold and unfathomable power and might, this Son of God came to be the Son of man.  He came from above to reveal Himself from below.  He came, not to rule with the might of man, but meek and lowly, that He might take us into Himself and restore us in body and soul.

Jesus came to earth as a little child.  He came in the same way that you and I have come, through the womb of His mother.  They were there, Mary and Joseph, alone on that cold, Judean night.  And Mary brought forth the Son of God and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, long strips of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, a place where animals ate their food.

This Jesus began His life on earth as the poorest of the poor.  That night, He had no comforts of hearth and home.  As He grew, He lived His life as the humblest of all.  He became the poorest, all so you could be rich, rich with God’s mercy and light, rich with life and salvation, rich with forgiveness.  Jesus Christ came into the world, all so you could have forgiveness, the real forgiveness that comes only through death and resurrection.  He came into the world to die, all so you could live forever.

So it is that we join the shepherds in hearing the song of the angels: “Glory to the newborn King; peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”  The song of the angels is now our song.  We sing such words because God’s peace is with us even today.  Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, still descends from Heaven’s royal throne to make your heart His home.

Jesus comes to you with words of forgiveness.  He comes to give you Himself: “Take eat, this is my body; take drink, this is my blood.”  His almighty Word descends even now, in the preached Word, as words that bring you the Word, Jesus Christ, pierce your ears to enter your heart.

Our Lord still reaches from heaven to earth.  Someday, He will return bearing the sharp sword of judgment once again, when He returns to judge the living and the dead.  But today, He extends His strong arm in peace, reaching down to give you the life that only He can give.

So, who will receive Him?  Who has the honor?  Who will receive the privilege and prize?  You, for He came to earth for you.  He died for you.  He rose from death for you.  And He will bring all His people home to be with Him, where light eternal forever shines and death is no more.

And it’s all because God chose to born as one of us “when peaceful stillness lay over all, and the night was half spent.”  He “descended from heaven’s royal throne,” for you, for me, for us all.  Amen.