Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14, NIV)
Angels We Have Heard On High is one of my favorite Christmas hymns, and it comes straight from Luke 2:14. “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” is the English translation of the Latin phrase, Gloria in Excelsis Deo. You probably remember a childhood choir teacher scolding the class, “It’s not in Excelsis Deo; it’s een Excelsis Deo!”
As I reflected on these two verses in Luke, something caught my attention that I hadn’t previously seen. As many times as I’ve heard that part of Christmas story where the angels appeared to the shepherds, and as many times as I’ve sung the song, I had never noticed the army in the story. The phrase “a great company of the heavenly host” literally means “a multitude of the armies of heaven.” You’re probably thinking, “Duh! How could you miss that?” But, I have always imagined the scene with a choir of thousands of angels singing praise. It never occurred to me that God didn’t send his choir, but his army.
I find it ironic that God sent an army to announce peace on earth. The proclamation of peace was a declaration that God is no longer at war with us. Rather than sending his army to annihilate his enemies (that’s us), He sent his Son to die for them (for us) so that we could be reconciled back into his family (see Romans 5:8-11). I have to wonder if God sent the army to show the magnitude of the grace he was giving. Instead of getting their swords, we got their songs! Instead of being sentenced, we were pardoned. Instead of war, we were given peace. The army wasn’t coming to fight against us, but to fight for us.
Another one of my favorite songs is Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin. It’s not typically considered a Christmas song, but in light of Luke 2:13-14 maybe it should be! I love the lyric:
The One who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
My prayer for the week is that you will rest in the peace Jesus Christ has won for you, and you’ll remember that the God of angel armies is with you.