The most important element of the entire narrative in Luke 2:1-20 is the twofold proclamation of the angel: the angelic message Luke 2:8-12 and the canticle of the angels, the Gloria in Luke 2:13-14. The angelic message is very solemn: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11).
Luke shows that the announcement of Jesus’ birth is first made to shepherds (in Matthew, to the Magi through the star). The reason for introducing the shepherds as the recipients of the greatest news is probably due to the association Jesus’ birth has with Bethlehem, the city of David. King David too, as noted earlier, was a shepherd. That Jesus, like David, is a shepherd-ruler of Israel is mode explicit by Matthew by starting that “the Christ was to be born … in Bethlehem … of Judah; for so it is written by the prophet: And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah … from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel” (Mt 2:4-6). Luke also probably thinks of presenting Jesus as shepherd-ruler of Israel. That Jesus will be the shepherd-ruler was hinted at in the reference to Bethlehem as the city of David. It is now reinforced by introducing the shepherds and their visit to the manger in Bethlehem. However, this motif is not so explicit as in Matthew. Besides, in the infancy narrative of Luke we find the ‘lowly ones’ (anawim) having a special place in God’s plan (Cf. Lk 1:38, 52). They probably may represent the lowly ones to whom God reveals the Saviour.
The announcement itself (Lk 2:9-12) follows the typical Old Testament pattern, with the omission of the element of ‘objection’ or ‘doubt’. In the angelic announcement we can hear an anticipated echo of the first Christian proclamation as found in Acts 2:36: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him (Jesus) both Lord and Christ”. The early Church’s understanding that the risen Jesus is the Messiah, Lord and Saviour is found also in Luke 2:9-12. Note that three significant titles are given to Jesus: Lord, Messiah and Saviour (Lk 2:11). These titles are applied to Jesus after the resurrection. The most important one for Luke is the title “Saviour”, as the theme od salvation is so very prominent in his gospel. The distinctive Lukan title ‘Saviour’ is placed first (Cf. Acts 5:31).
The second aspect of the proclamation is the angelic chorus in Luke 2:13-14 (the Gloria). This is the fourth poetic canticle in the infancy narrative (Cf. Magnificat, Benedictus and Nunc Dimittis). It may have been a Jewish Christian hymn in praise of God’s saving deeds in Jesus, namely, through his death and resurrection. There is a certain similarity between the angelic canticle and the acclamation of the crowd in Luke 19:38 as Jesus enters Jerusalem.
|Lk 2:14 – The Angelic Canticle||Lk 19:38 – The Acclamation of the crowd|
|“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men …”||Peace in heaven and Glory in the highest|
The angelic proclamation is an invitation to Luke’s readers to sing God’s praise. For with Jesus’ birth the shalom (peace) of God is made available to all his people. In fact, the news of great joy is, therefore, for all people “with whom he is pleased”, namely, those whom God has favoured with his grace. The phrase “with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2:14) refers to God’s gracious will towards his people and not to the merit of human beings. It indicates the favour of divine election. The peace which is announced is not the absence of hostility or trouble but the blessings of salvation, the gift of all-round well-being which comes through God’s love for all his people.