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Let’s Join the Chorus of Praise

December 24, 2023 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Advent

Topic: Advent Passage: Luke 1:1– 2:38


A Meditation for Christmas Eve

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date: December 24, 2023

Series: Christmas Eve

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


I would like to share a short meditation with you on this Christmas Eve. It is simply called: “Let’s Join the Chorus of Praise.” I would like to weave together a few lines of thought from the Psalms, from the Christmas narrative, from the songs that we are singing tonight, and from the Gospel of Luke, and from the songs that we are singing tonight.

Psalms 146-150

There is a concentration of praise unto God in Psalms 146-150. Each of those psalms begins and ends with the phrase: Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! The words praise appear many additional times as well.

Why do we praise the Lord? We praise the Lord because He is the great sovereign King who graciously cares for His lowly people. Scripture says:

146 5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

147 1 Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
    for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the humble;
    he casts the wicked to the ground. (Psalm 146:5-147:6)

Doesn’t that sound like the ministry of the Lord Jesus, who came to preach good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, and heal the brokenhearted? Mary sounds this theme in her Magnificat:

“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.” (Luke 1:51-53)

One of the greatest lies ever told is that God helps those who help themselves. In fact, God helps those who have no capacity to help themselves. He gathers, lifts up, strengthens, and blesses His people. If it depended on us and our strength, we would be worthy of praise. As it stands, it depends on the steadfast love of the Lord. “[The] LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (Psalm 147:11) “Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” (Psalm 149:2-4) Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

The Christmas Narrative

When we turn to the Christmas narrative in Luke 1:5-2:38, and in Matthew 1:18-2:12, what we see is the Lord adorning His humble people with the joy of salvation. The Lord takes pleasure in Zechariah and Elizabeth, in Joseph and Mary, in the shepherds in the field, in Simeon and Anna in the temple, and in the wise men from the east. These passages feature a concentration of praise, not unlike the concentration of praise in Psalm 146-150.

When Mary greeted her relative Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb – John the Baptist – leapt for joy. Mary herself was overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace to her and to her people: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant…. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy” (Luke 1:46-47, 54-55). Why should we praise the Lord? Because He looks upon His people, remembers His promises, and helps them with His sovereign might.

Zechariah was literally rendered speechless in consequence of his unbelief at the promise that he and Elizabeth would have a son in their old age, but when their son John was finally born, his tongue was loosed and the Holy Spirit drew his mouth into prophetic praise: “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, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old” (Luke 1:68-70). Why should we praise the Lord? Because He has drawn near to His people and raised up the King that He promised to send.

Moving to Luke 2, the heavenly host fastened their attention on the baby in the manger. While most of the world kept sleeping, or continued limping along, or remained clueless, the angels knew that something incomparably praiseworthy was taking place. On the one hand, they knew that the Savior, Christ the Lord, had made His entrance into the world. And yet, the heaven-sent King made His entrance in such a lowly condition, as “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) They could not contain their joy, and so they praised God: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”” (Luke 2:14)

All this took place in the presence of the shepherds who were “out in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” (Luke 2:8) An angel appeared, the Lord’s glory shone, the angel declared the “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10), the “multitude of the heavenly host” uttered praise – and then the shepherds made their way to Bethlehem to see the holy child. Afterward “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:20) It is important to observe that this is how praise works: we hear and/or see that which is praiseworthy, and our heart is stirred up to render praise for that which is praiseworthy. Praising God is the fitting response to the praiseworthy character, words, and deeds of our God. Thus, the way to stir up praise is to show people God’s faithful promises and His redeeming grace. And this is why we need God to open the eyes of our heart, and to give us ears to hear, so that we can truly grasp His holy splendor and His steadfast love.

Then there is that “righteous and devout” man named Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25) and he had the privilege of taking up the baby Jesus in his arms. When he did so, he “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”” (Luke 2:28-31). The Savior Jesus is the very embodiment of the salvation that God had planned for Israel and for the Gentiles.

The prophetess Anna, an elderly widow who worshiped in the temple continually, and in view of the baby Jesus’ visit to the temple, “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:28)

Not to be outdone, the wise men from the east made the long trek to Bethlehem and, upon seeing the child, “they fell down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11) This was no mere formal act of going through the motions: they had “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10) at the star that led them to the holy family, and they presented the Messiah with valuable gifts (Matthew 2:11).

Do you see the pattern? John the Baptist while still in the womb. Mary. Zechariah. The heavenly host. The shepherds from the field. Simeon. Anna. The wise men. The great work of God in the giving of His Son drew young and old, men and women, rich and poor, into the praise of God Most High. Which echoes the truth of Psalm 148:11-13. Who should praise the name of the Lord?

“Kings of the earth and all peoples,

Princes and all rulers of the earth!

Young men and maidens together,

old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name alone is exalted;

his majesty is above earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:11-13)

Hallelujah! Glory to God in the highest! Praise the Lord! When the Father brought His beloved Son into the world, those who had eyes to see it burst forth with praise. Can we do any differently?

Luke 1-24

As the Gospel of Luke unfolds from all the blessing God, glorifying God, praising God, and giving thanks to God in Luke 1-2, these very things are a significant part of that unfolding. Jesus was “glorified by all” as he taught in the synagogues (Luke 4:15). After forgiving and healing a paralytic, the observers “glorified God and were with awe” (Luke 5:26). After raising a widow’s son from the dead, the people “glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”” (Luke 7:16) Yes indeed, and more than they knew. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. When Jesus delivered a boy from an evil spirit, “all were astonished at the majesty of God” (Luke 9:43). Jesus cleansed ten lepers, but only one of the ten – a Samaritan – saw the glory. “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” (Luke 17:15-16) Likewise, when Jesus healed the blind beggar near Jericho, the man who “recovered his sight… followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:43) When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:37-38)

Isn’t that interesting? In Luke 2, at the Savior’s birth, the multitude of the heavenly host declared, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Then in Luke 19, not long before our Savior’s death, “the whole multitude of his disciples” on earth declared, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

At the moment of His remarkable death, preceded by three hours of darkness in the middle of the day, the tearing of the temple curtain, and the Savior’s entrusting of Himself to the Father’s hands, a centurion got a glimpse of the glory: “Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”” (Luke 23:47)

How does the Gospel of Luke end? The Lord rose (Luke 24:1-12), the risen Lord appeared to His disciples (Luke 24:13-50), and finally the risen Lord ascended into heaven (Luke 24:51). Then what? How does the Luke end? It ends with this: “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:52-53) Now this is glorious! Luke began his gospel by telling us that something noteworthy had “been accomplished among us” (Luke 1:1). The ball started rolling with the angel declaring good news to the priest Zechariah in the temple, but in a moment of weakness Zechariah didn’t believe, and he was rendered speechless. By the time we get to the end of Luke 24, we have learned about the wonderful things that had “been accomplished among us” – our Lord suffered and died and rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures, so that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47) And so, Luke ends by telling us that His disciples were in the temple, having great joy because they had come to understand what had been accomplished for their salvation. Their eyes saw, their minds understood, their hearts had great joy, and so – like Anna back in Luke 2, but with greater understanding – they “were continually in the temple blessing God.”

Encouraging Praise from Christmas Hymnody

It is our privilege to join our hearts and voices to the chorus of praise in Psalms 146-150 and in the Gospel of Luke. Let me conclude with nine short statements, one statement each from nine of the songs that are being sung or played tonight:

  • “Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King” (“Joy to the World!”)
  • “Jesus, to Thee be glory giv’n; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing” (“O Come, All Ye Faithful”)
  • “Son of God, love’s pure light / Radiant beams from Thy holy face, / With the dawn of redeeming grace, / Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, / Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth” (“Silent Night! Holy Night!”)
  • “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, / The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head; / The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, / The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.” (“Away in a Manger”)
  • “The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger, / In all our trials born to be our Friend; He knows our need, / To our weakness is no stranger” (“O Holy Night”)
  • “True man, yet very God, / From sin and death He saves us / And lightens every load” (“Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming”)
  • “He who God’s pure law fulfilled; Jesus, the incarnate Word; He whose truth with blood was sealed – He is heav’n’s all-glorious Lord.” (“Who is this that comes from far?)
  • “So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, / Come peasant, king, to own Him; The King of kings salvation brings, / Let loving hearts enthrone Him.” (“What Child Is This?”)
  • “Then let us all with one accord / Sing praises to our heav’nly Lord, / That hath made heav’n and earth of naught, / And with His blood mankind hath bought.” (“The First Noel”)

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! For our great sovereign King graciously cares for His lowly people!

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