Almost Heaven on Earth

Luke 2:12-14 “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The only thing extraordinary about the angel’s sign is the ordinariness and humility of it all. There isn’t anything special about strips of cloth and feeding troughs.

Except that it’s not where you expect to find your God! It’s not where you expect the salvation of the world to begin. It’s not the sort of place you expect to find the foundation for your only hope of eternal life in heaven. Who would have believed such a thing if it didn’t come from the mouth of an angel sent by God? If a quiet stranger had stopped and said this to the Shepherds, would they have believed him?

But for those who, like the shepherds, have come to believe that it is so, they understand just a little bit better the astounding love that God must have for them. He stoops so low. He is born in a stable. Here is Godhood and Divinity in a form that we can approach. Here we get a brief glimpse of heaven, when we are looking at our God, lying in the manger.

The wonder of such love certainly begs his creatures to give him glory. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”

God’s glory clearly shines in Jesus’ humble birth. We often say that you can’t find heaven on earth, and rightly so. This world and its things can never be heaven. But on this day the Lord took a little bit of heaven’s glory, and he brought it down to earth for just a little while so that we might know him as he truly is. He did it so that someday he might take us back to heaven to bask in his glory forever.

This is possible only because Jesus is our peace. He came to end the war between earth and heaven, between us and God. He has paid for our sin and atoned for our guilt. He has led us to faith and comforted us with his love. He accomplished it all at the cross, and confirmed it at his empty tomb. But already in the stable, in the manger, we see him coming as our peace.

So, God’s favor rests on you, and me, and a world of sinners. We look into his smiling face, and his good news grants a little taste, a little glimpse of heaven, even as we live on earth.

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