“Glory to the Newborn King”: Christmas Eve message 2021

Here is the message I was to deliver at Eastbrook Church at Christmas Eve services before coming down sick. Thanks to Jim Caler for delivering it in my place.


I love singing Christmas carols and Christmas songs. Maybe you do too. A couple weeks ago I was at a Christmas party, and we sang a couple Christmas songs together and I noticed that as the songs got going people just lit up and joined right in.  If you had to make a choice, what would you say is your favorite Christmas song or Christmas carol? Maybe turn to someone near you and share that right now.

A little earlier in the service we sang the song “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” It says:

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King”
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

There are few Christmas hymns that are so jam-packed with good theology and biblical truth while also being so singable and full of joy as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

That phrase, “Glory to the newborn king,” is so rich with meaning. But that meaning is twofold. First, Jesus comes to bring us His glory. And second, we, in return, bring our glory echoing back to Him. 

We bring glory to Jesus the newborn King because the newborn King first brings glory to us.

The Newborn Kings Brings Us Glory

We heard earlier of the birth of Jesus. We’re told that Mary gave birth to a son and Joseph gave him the name Jesus: “She gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25).

Later, when the Maji from the east arrive, they say they have come, following a star, to find a newborn king that they might worship Him: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

There is a newborn King who comes to bring us His glory. 

Now, there are a lot of different kingdoms on earth. There are great kingdoms of the past and there are great kingdoms of the present. There will even be kingdoms of the future that we have not yet encountered. 

But Jesus brings a different sort of kingdom. He comes to bring God’s kingdom. At the beginning of His preaching and miracle-working ministry, Jesus declares: 

“The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

This newborn King brings a new sort of kingdom that calls us to repent, which literally means “turn around” or “do a 180,” and embrace the good news. Why is this new kingdom a “good news” kind of kingdom? Because it reveals the glory of God.

All through the Bible there are glimpses of glory, specifically the glory of God. What is “glory”? Well, it is the visible radiance of the being of God – God’s beauty or majesty – His goodness and greatness unveiled to us. 

Jesus, this newborn King, has come to bring God’s kingdom and reveal to us God’s glory – His majesty, His beauty, His goodness, His greatness. 

As the early Christian leader Paul writes in Colossians 1:15: 

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)

And this newborn King, Jesus, brings this glory close to us, right where we live in our everyday lives. Hear it again:

“‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” (Matthew 1:23)

God with us. His glory brought to us. Not just to a select few of highly regarded and well-groomed people, but to all of us. 

Yes, I know we all tried to get dressed up for this Christmas Eve service, but deep down we all know we’re a rag-tag bunch of rough & tumble people who need God to intervene in our lives. 

We may be special or stand out for one reason or another that our mother enjoys, but Jesus doesn’t base His decision to bring glory to us on that sort of thing. He brings His glory to anyone who wants a taste of salvation’s savor; to anyone who longs to behold God’s beauty; to anyone, no matter how apparently undeserving, who wants to join the shepherds and the wise men at the manger in worship.

Ordinary people – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, you, and me – we all can experience the glory of God that the newborn King Jesus brings to us.

We Bring Glory to the Newborn King

But the second half of the great truth of Christmas is that we have the privilege of echoing back glory to that newborn King.

Maybe you already know that an echo is just sound bouncing back to us from a hard surface. It’s one thing to experience an echo in the shower where your singing never sounded so good, but it’s an entirely different thing to hear an echo bounce back over a tremendous distance in the perfect environment, such as a canyon or rock face near water. 

Or even in a built environment, such as the Hamilton Mausoleum in Scotland, that will sustain echoes of 15 seconds before they fade from our ear.

An echo is not the original sound, but it does replay or return the sound that originally was released.

Just as sound released in the right environment brings forth an echo in response, so God’s glory in Jesus Christ searches for a right environment in human lives bringing forth echoes of glory in response. 

We should echo back, giving glory to the newborn King who first gifts us with a revelation of God’s glory.

An early church leader, Irenaeus of Lyons, once write that “The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and the life of humanity consists in beholding God.”[1]

We receive the glory of God—His beauty and majesty, His goodness and greatness—into our lives through faith in Jesus and we bring glory to God by living in response to Him today and all our days. Our lives are intended to be an echo. 

So how do we echo back glory to Jesus? 

First, we can take seriously the glory revealed in Jesus. It’s all about Him. We can live with our eyes fixed on Him—knowing Him more, searching the Bible to better understand Him, and digging deeper into a real, transformational relationship with Him.

Second, we can respond with our hearts and our lives to Jesus. We can take a step of faith today with Him, perhaps for the very first time. We can choose to orient our whole way of living around Jesus and His teaching.   

I don’t want to miss the chance for us today to consider what that means for us in our lives in a very real and tangible way.

In the program today there is a response card. It offers some specific ways we can respond to the glory of God revealed in Jesus. I’d like to ask you to look at that part of the program, or those specific responses online.

There is a space for you to fill in your name and information, as well as make one of several responses:

  • I would like to talk with a pastor or staff member about Jesus Christ and the Bible
  • I would like to find out how to explore my faith 
  • I would like to receive more information about Eastbrook 
  • I would like to explore joining a small group to grow in my faith 
  • I would like prayer for something in my life

I would like to urge you, whether you’re online or in person, to take some time to consider your response to God right now. No one else can become an echo for you. Only you can respond to God. 

If you’re in person you can fill out the card and put it in the bins that the ushers will have by the doors as you leave.  If you’re online, you can respond to the online host or send us an email at info@eastbrook.org.

Conclusion

In the late 19th century, Christina Rosetti wrote a poem that was later turned into a song known as “In the Bleak Midwinter.” The poem traces the incarnation of Jesus, reflecting on the wonders of Him leaving the Father’s presence to enter into our earthly realities. It concludes with a final stanza of self-reflection upon what gift we could possibly give in return for the marvelous gift of God’s glory revealed in Jesus. As we conclude tonight, I cannot think of better words for us to ponder:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd, 
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.[2]

Let’s pray.


[1] St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter 20, Section 7.

[2] Christina Rosetti, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” stanza 5.

His Life, Our Life

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” (Matthew 1:22-23)

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)

Christmas Day is a time of great celebration. Some of us will open presents. Some of us will gather with family or friends to share a meal. Some of us will enjoy certain annual traditions with those we love. Some of us will remember those no longer with us, feeling both the sadness of loss but also the depth of meaningful memories. 

Regardless of what fills our day, Christmas puts into sharp focus the greatness of God’s gift to us in Jesus becoming incarnate by the Holy Spirit’s power working in the Virgin Mary. From start to finish, Jesus’ story is one of God’s life given for so that we might have life. Jesus enters our world as a baby who will grow into a man destined to save all humanity. His infancy is humble in a variety of ways: coming from glory to earth, born to ordinary parents with little reputation, growing up outside the centers of power, and more. So, too, Jesus’ adult life embraces the humility as he is misunderstood as Messiah, lives dependent upon others’ financial supply, and ultimately in a sacrificial death for our salvation.

His life for our life. This gift is beyond measure. May we celebrate Jesus as we enter into this Christmas Day.

The Way of Jesus and the Way of Herod

This past weekend we began a new series “Power in Preparation” at Eastbrook Church. This begins the second part of our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew. This message is a study in contrasts drawn from Matthew 1:18-25 and Matthew 2:1-18.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.” (Matthew 2:16)

A Conversation about Ways

  • What it means to choose a “way”
  • The consequences of certain ways (Proverbs 14:12)
  • Jesus: “I am the way…” (John 14:6)

The Way of Herod

  • disturbing power (2:1-8)
  • knowledge and deception (2:4-8)
  • controlling through violence (2:16-18)

The Way of Jesus

  • incarnate power (1:18, 20)
  • grace and truth (John 1:14)
  • saving through humility (1:21)

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the contrast between Jesus and Herod in one or more of the following ways:

The Simple Mystery of the Conception: a word from John Chrysostom

I came across this excerpt from a sermon by St. John Chrysostom that illuminated something Kelly and I could not address in our recent message on Mary at Eastbrook Church. Chrysostom was one of the most significant preachers in the history of the church and a powerful voice in the 4th and 5th centuries. This excerpt is taken from Homily 4 on the Gospel of Matthew.

Do not speculate beyond the text. Do not require of it something more than what it simply says. Do not ask, “But precisely how was it that the Spirit accomplished this in a virgin?” For even when nature is at work, it is impossible fully to explain the manner of the formation of the person. How then, when the Spirit is accomplishing miracles, shall we be able to express their precise causes? Lest you should weary the writer or disturb him by continually probing beyond what he says, he has indicated who it was that produced the miracle. He then withdraws from further comment. “I know nothing more,” he in effect says, “but that what was done was the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Shame on those who attempt to pry into the miracle of generation from on high! For this birth can by no means be explained, yet it has witnesses beyond number and has been proclaimed from ancient times as a real birth handled with human hands. What kind of extreme madness afflicts those who busy themselves by curiously prying into the unutterable generation? For neither Gabriel nor Matthew was able to say anything more, but only that the generation was from the Spirit. But how from the Spirit? In what manner? Neither Gabriel nor Matthew has explained, nor is it possible.

Do not imagine that you have untangled the mystery merely by hearing that this is the work of the Spirit. For we remain ignorant of many things, even while learning of them. So how could the infinite One reside in a womb? How could he that contains all be carried as yet unborn by a woman? How could the Virgin bear and continue to be a virgin? Explain to me how the Spirit designed the temple of his body.

[John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, Homily 4.3 from Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1-13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture 1a (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 12-13.]

Bibliography for Family Tree series

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share resources I utilized in my study and preparation for sermons. Here is the bibliography for our recent series, “Family Tree,” which is the first part of an extended walk through the Gospel of Matthew and focused on Matthew, chapters 1-2.

Bibliography for “Family Tree” [Gospel of Matthew, part 1]

Darrell L. Bock. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994.

Jeannine K. Brown and Kyle Roberts. Matthew. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018.

Raymond E. Brown. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1977.

John Chrysostom. Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew. NPNF, series 1, vol. 10. Edited by Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004.

R. T. France. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

D. S. Huffman. “Genealogy.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 253-259. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Craig S. Keener. Matthew. IVPNTC. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997.

Scot McKnight. “Matthew, Gospel of.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 526-541. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

C. J. Martin. “Mary’s Song.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 525-526. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Manlio Simonetti, editor. Matthew 1-13. ACCS. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001.

Ben Witherington III. “Birth of Jesus.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 60-74. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

N. T. Wright. The New Testament and the People of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992.