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Doxology Is The Point


A Midweek Lesson

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date:   December 19, 2018

Note:   Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard   Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



I have titled this lesson “Doxology is the Point.” We are presently in the Advent-soon-to-be-Christmas season, and so what I am attempting to say is that doxology is the point of Christmas. But I could just as well say that doxology is the point of everything. Which of course means that doxology is the point of each thing in particular (just fill in the blank). The bottom line? Doxology is the point.

But what is doxology? The word is not commonly used in everyday conversation. Churchgoers, however, may be familiar with the “Doxology,” a short hymn that in some liturgical traditions is sung after the collection of offerings. Sometimes my own family sings the “Doxology” as a way of saying ‘grace’ before our meal. In The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration, Hymns 624, 625, and 626 are each titled “Doxology,” and Hymn 627 is titled “A Doxology Canon.” We are familiar with the words:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him all creatures here below,

Praise Him above ye heavenly host,

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


The meaning of doxology is revealed in the word praise. The word doxology comes from two Greek words: doxa which means praise or glory, and logia which means word. Thus doxology means a word of praise or a word of glory. In the context of Christian worship, doxology has to do with praising and glorifying the triune God. So when I say that ‘Doxology is the Point’, what I mean is that the point of everything, and the point of Christmas, is that we would enter into the praise of God, and that we would do so gladly.

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

Serve the LORD with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!”

(Psalm 100:1-2)

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.”

(Psalm 100:4-5)

In Ephesians 1 the apostle Paul teaches us that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) graciously bestowed His salvation upon us “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6) and “so that we who were the first hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12; see also Ephesians 1:14). We don’t exist to be stand amazed (or, for that matter, to stand dismayed) in front of the mirror. Nor do we exist to be preoccupied with earthly honors and earthly possessions. Instead, we exist to behold the glory of God – especially to behold the glory of God in the face of the One who laid down His life for us – and to be profoundly grateful for the grace that flows to us from the Father above. Then, full of wonder and gratitude, we ought to tell of the glories that we behold – yes, tell them in words and songs of praise.


Sound Bible teaching – good theology! – is essential to healthy churches and healthy congregations. But right doctrine isn’t the end point. Doctrine must lead to doxology; theology must lead to thanksgiving; grasping true words about God must lead to glorifying and praising God. Doxology is the point!

We see all this very clearly in the Christmas narratives in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 2. These three chapters give us plenty of true historical information as well as the right theological interpretation of these historical events. The historical information and theological interpretation is essential and foundational to the Christian life. But, as you would now expect me to say, history (what happened) and theology (why it happened) must become fuel in the engine of our hearts – energizing our hearts with joy and gladness as we stand in awe of our God.

“[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son” (Luke 2:7) – this is an historical event.

Mary’s son is actually the eternal Word become flesh (John 1:14), and his human life was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:31-35), and he is “called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), and He will reign as King forever (Luke 1:32-33) – this is theology explaining the history.

But John leaping in Elizabeth’s womb when Jesus, still in Mary’s womb, drew near (Luke 1:39-44) – this is doxology. Rejoice! Lift up your heart! Praise your God!  


With this background in mind, let’s take a short tour through the Christmas narratives. Over and over again we will see that the point of it all is the high praise of God.

1) Elizabeth and her son John

Against all expectation, the aged Zechariah and his barren and aged wife Elizabeth had conceived a son whose name was to be John. John would be a “prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76) who would prepare the people to receive their King. While Elizabeth was pregnant with John, her younger relative Mary – a virgin – conceived in her womb the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the King whose way would be prepared by the prophet John.

Just as Jesus and John were woven together in the drama of redemption, so too were their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth. For a time their pregnancies overlapped one with another, and during that time Mary visited her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth at their house. Luke writes:

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”” (Luke 1:41-44)

The Lord draws near, and the Holy Spirit fills the Lord’s people with joy. This is the beginning of doxology.

2) Mary

Mary, for her part, was overwhelmed by God’s lavish grace poured out upon her. God had chosen her to be the human mother of the everlasting King! The angel had told her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) This angelic announcement of blessing was then echoed in Elizabeth’s encouragement to Mary: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45) In response to all this, Mary rendered heartfelt praise to God:

“And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

For he who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him

From generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

as he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his offspring forever.""

(Luke 1:46-55)

The English Standard Version puts a heading over these verses: “Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat.” In other words, her words constitute a doxology, a word of praise. How many people receive blessing from God but fail to return praise and thanksgiving to God? Which is to say: How many people miss the point? The gracious blessings of God have not accomplished their intended purpose when we take the blessings, take them into our self-enclosed lives and do with them as we please, but forget God. Such is the way of sin, but it is not so with Mary. Mary sees the big thing that God is doing for the salvation of His people Israel, she sees the “great things” that the God of the big thing has done for her, and her soul is overjoyed “in God” and she praises the God of her – and her people’s – salvation.

3) Zechariah

Next, taking things in the order of occurrence in Luke 1, we come to Zechariah, husband of Elizabeth and father of John. My December 16 sermon was devoted largely to Zechariah and his prophetic utterance in Luke 1:68-79. Here I just want to highlight the fact that Zechariah is another example of someone who got the point, the point being doxology. After his son John was born in fulfillment of the angel’s promise to him some ten months earlier, and knowing that his son’s birth and subsequent ministry was preparational to the coming of the promised Messiah, Zechariah’s heart was bursting with doxological energy.

“And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.” (Luke 1:64)

“And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he has visited and redeemed his people

and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

in the house of his servant David…"" (Luke 1:67-69)

4) The Heavenly Host

Not long after John’s birth, the Savior Himself was born (Luke 2:1-7). As it happened, God dispatched one of his angels to announce the Savior’s birth to “shepherds out in the field” (Luke 2:8). The angel declared:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

In due course these shepherds will join the chorus of praise. But first, a “heavenly host” got in on the action:

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased."" (Luke 2:13-14)

Think about it: while Caesar Augustus, the emperor of the Roman Empire, was sizing up the scope of his earthly kingdom (Luke 2:1), while “Herod, king of Judea” (Luke 1:5) was no doubt concerned about the politics of his own little empire (cf. Matthew 2:1-18), and while the vast majority of people in Palestine and throughout the world were preoccupied with their ordinary lives, the Son of God slipped into the world – and most people on earth didn’t know it. But the holy angels in heaven above were riveted: the most significant event taking place in the universe was the birth of the baby in Bethlehem.

“Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation,

 O sing, all ye bright hosts of heav’n above!

Glory to God, all glory in the highest!

“O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord!”[1]

God’s glory in heaven above and God’s peace extended to men on earth, come together in the Person of our “Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

5) The Shepherds

It is not enough, however, for the praise to descend from the heavenly host above. Praise must likewise arise from the hearts of the people who are the recipients of God’s peace and salvation.

“Shepherds, in the fields abiding,

Watching o’er your flocks by night,

God with man is now residing,

Yonder shines the infant Light:

“Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn King.”[2]

The shepherds heeded the angel’s summons and “they went with haste” (Luke 2:16) in order to “see this thing that has happened, which the Lord [had made known to them]” (Luke 2:15). They “found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16). They themselves became preachers of the glad tidings, and “they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17). But we must understand that the shepherds were not acting out of mere intellectual curiosity. They, like the “multitude of the heavenly host” they had seen in the sky, became riveted on what God was doing through the Lord’s birth. They, too, got the point – or, to put it more accurately, the point had overtaken them: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:20)

6) Simeon

The same point had also overtaken Simeon, a godly old man who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). Simeon was waiting for the Consoler, Redeemer, and Savior to come and deliver Israel and the nations from the darkness spread abroad over the earth.

In case you haven’t figured it out, the difference between dry intellectualism and lively-doctrine-bursting-forth-in-doxology is the Person of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, we need doctrine, we need the written Word, we need the truth to be taught with clarity. But unless the Holy Spirit generates faith and love in our hearts, the Word’s power will remain afar off and the doctrine will seem boring and dull.

John “leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44) in the womb because he was “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41) and “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:67). And how in the world does a virgin “conceive in [her] womb and bear a son” (Luke 1:31)? Mary wondered how and asked the angel about it, and the angel replied: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). The Holy Spirit enlivens a barren womb, and converts doctrine into life and joy and praise.

Thus we are not surprised that “the Holy Spirit was upon [Simeon]” (Luke 2:25) and that the Holy Spirit had “revealed to him… that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). In fulfillment of this promise, Simeon was in the temple on the day when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple “in order to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22). One bit of clarification may be helpful: Both God the Father and Jesus Christ are referred to as “Lord” in Luke 1-2. The fact that Luke speaks of the God of Israel as Lord over and over again, and at the very same time speaks of Jesus as Lord, is one of the clearest proofs of the deity of Christ – “Christ the Lord.”

In any case, the Holy-Spirit-empowered Simeon was in the temple that day and had the tremendous privilege of holding “the child Jesus” (Luke 2:27) “in his arms” (Luke 2:28). When Simeon held Jesus in his arms, he was holding in his arms the light and the glory and the salvation of God, and he knew it! And doxology happened!

“[Simeon] took him [Jesus] up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation

that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,    

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel."" (Luke 2:28-32)

7) Anna

But Simeon and Joseph and Mary weren’t the only worshipers in the temple that day. While Zechariah was praising God and then declaring a word of prophecy to Joseph and Mary, there was a faithful widow and prophetess named Anna. “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37). “And coming up at that very hour” – that is, when Simeon was holding the Savior of the world in his arms and uttering words of praise and prophecy – “she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him [i.e., the Christ] to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38) The “multitude of the heavenly host” and the faithful on earth were alike riveted by the glory shining forth in “[the] little Lord Jesus” who had come in order to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

8) The Wise Men

Last, but not least, we mustn’t forget about the Gentiles who were ushered in to the doxological symphony.

“Sages, leave your contemplations,

Brighter visions beam afar;

Seek the great Desire of nations,

Ye have seen His natal star:

“Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn King.”[3]

And so it is that “wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1) and, after inquiring about the birthplace of Israel’s true king, they proceeded to Bethlehem and found “the child with Mary his mother” (Matthew 2:11). Once there, they didn’t forget the point: “and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

The hymnwriter pleads with us to not let the point be lost on us:

“So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,

Come, peasant, king, to own Him;

The King of kings salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

“This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.”[4]


My brothers and sisters, all of this is to say that doxology is and forever will be the point. If we are among the faithful, then it is our privilege to be caught up in the song of everlasting praise:

To you, “Son of God”[5] and “everlasting Lord”[6],

To you, “Christ the Savior”[7] and “Christ the King”[8],

To You, “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing”[9],

To You, “King of Israel”[10] and “Desire of nations”[11],

To You, “heav’n-born Prince of Peace”[12] and “holy Child of Bethlehem”[13],

To You, “Christmas Babe so tender, Lamb who bore our blame”[14],

To You “be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

And all of God’s people said: 




[1] From the hymn “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

[2] From the hymn “Angels, from the Realms of Glory.”

[3] From the hymn “Angels, from the Realms of Glory.”

[4] From the hymn “What Child Is This?”

[5] From the hymn “Silent Night! Holy Night!”

[6] From the hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

[7] From the hymn “Silent Night! Holy Night!”

[8] From the hymn “What Child Is This?”

[9] From the hymn “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

[10] From the hymn “The First Noel.”

[11] From the hymns “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Angels, from the Realms of Glory.”

[12] From the hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

[13] From the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

[14] From the hymn “A Communion Hymn for Christmas,” written by Margaret Clarkson. According to The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (see bibliography below), this hymn – which is Hymn 140 in its volume – is still under copyright: © Copyright 1986 WORD MUSIC (a div. of WORD, INC.) All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.  

[15] See the “Amen!” of Revelation 5:14 following the doxology of Revelation 5:13.


The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration. Waco, Texas: WORD MUSIC (a div. of WORD, INC.), MCMLXXXVI [1986].