In the Gospel of St Luke (2:14) we have the text of a HYMN that was/is sung in heaven itself. The record we have of it is in Greek but the shepherds of Bethlehem probably heard it in Hebrew or Aramaic.
Technically speaking, the hymn consists of two members connected by a conjunction; and the three parts of the one member exactly correspond with the three parts of the other member. One member looks to heaven and the other member looks to earth as affected by heaven.
In the RSV (1952) we read:
Glory to God in the highest
On earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased.
We note that:
Glory balances with Peace
In the highest with on earth
To God with among men…
In the highest places – that is in heaven itself – praise (glory) is being offered by the angelic hosts to the Father. Why? Because of the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father. The saving and redeeming work amongst the people of Israel has reached its climax and fulfillment. The Son of God is incarnate of the Virgin Mary: the Word of God is made flesh to dwell amongst men. He is there to be seen in the manger in Bethlehem.
On earth, created by God, something is also being offered. It is not praise but peace and it is for the elect (those who believe and trust in the Lord and in whom God delights). The marvelous effect of the Incarnation of the Son of God as the Savior is peace – shalom, peace with God removing enmity, peace (wholeness) in the heart and mind removing the guilt and stain of sin, and peace (reconciliation) between men breaking down barriers. Such peace is also salvation from sin and friendship with God unto eternal life.
In the true liturgy on earth the choirs of men join with the choirs of heaven at the Festival of the Nativity first of all to praise, magnify and give glory to God for the Incarnation of His Son, and secondly, to proclaim what the arrival of His Son means for the human race in terms of peace and salvation.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)