And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
At the announcement of Good News of great joy, there came a multitude of angels praising God, adding their song, “On earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” This phrase recalls what Gabriel said when announcing to Mary the baby within her: “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” The pleasure of God, the favor of the Lord, was turned toward humanity by Christ’s birth, and its impact means favor and peace. What motivated God to send Jesus, what inaugurated itself as Good News (“Gospel”) with His birth, was the message that God had found humanity pleasing to Him and in His favor.
Does this mean God is pleased with our sinful actions, or that He ignores how badly the world has gone? Certainly not! But in all of these announcements by angels to humans—to Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds—there isn’t an explicit mention of humanity’s sinfulness. What motivated God to act, what motivated God to send rescue, wasn’t our sinfulness alone, for in the Incarnation of Christ He was moving to act against sin but wasn’t reacting to sin. There’s something bigger going on here, something implied subtly but powerfully—God was moving in a way that He hadn’t moved since the creation itself. But if we don’t know what to look for, we will miss it.
The angels were praising God together, announcing the pleasure of God with humankind, and echoing the message of God’s favor revealed towards humanity. The angels praised—that’s our clue. This moment of praises for God and announcement of something hidden and unknown echoes a passage from Job 38 (verses 4-7 below):
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
When God first created the world, which the whole of Job 38 depicts, the angels sang together and praised God. God was questioning Job and asking him if he was there when it happened, when God acted to create the world. But here in Luke, the angels sing together and humans are there when the announcement comes that God acted, and this act is the act of Creation—like when He first created the world. With the birth of Jesus we see the start of a new creation, the re-creation of humanity and the start of rescuing the whole world. The Incarnation is not just a singular, one-off miracle of God coming to the rescue, but rather we see in it the means for the rescue.
God’s answer to a fallen world, to a humanity infected with sin, was new creation, starting with humanity and, through a reborn humanity, rescuing the entire cosmos. Angels were there at the first creation, and here in Luke, we see humanity and angels together at the start of the new creation. This is cause for worship, for celebration, for praises to God! God has acted, in the Incarnation, and His act was to recreate. What wonder, what glory, what praiseworthiness arises in our hearts when we see what God was up to all along!