Here is the final installment of J.M. Boyce’s “How to Celebrate Christmas” from his book The Christ of Christmas.
Finally, the text suggests that we celebrate Christmas by glorifying God and by praising Him: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20). To do that is to worship God both by words and in song.
I love the word glory, or glorify. It is one of the great words of the Greek language. Long ago, when that language was in its infancy, the word from which glory came meant “to have an opinion.” Later it came to mean only “to have a good opinion.” Finally, by an obvious extension, it meant a person’s true “worth.” The noun form of the word is doxa, which we have in our own words orthodox, heterodox, and paradox. Those words mean “a right opinion,” “a wrong opinion,” and “a contradictory opinion” respectively.
When you acknowledge a person’s true worth, which is only another way of saying that you express a proper opinion of him, you may be said to be glorifying him. That is the sense in which we glorify God. Moreover, since acknowledging His true worth is the essential meaning of worship – it means to acknowledge God’s worth-ship – to glorify God is to worship Him by words. It is in that sense a doxology, which means to express a right opinion of God verbally.
That is what the shepherds did, and we are to imitate them. You can tell if you do by attempting to rehearse God’s attributes. What are they? The birth of Christ itself teaches us of God’s love; for God loved us so much that He became man in order to die for us. It also teaches us God’s power, for an incarnation is beyond our ability even to imagine, let alone to bring into being. In the birth we see God’s wisdom. We learn of His mercy. We see His disposition to use little things, to exalt the humble, and to subdue the proud. We see His grace. Have you seen those things and confessed them to God and others?
You can do that in song. For praising God is essentially an act of glorifying God with the whole being, and, in this, music quite naturally takes part. That is why carols are so much a rightful part of Christmas; for, when sung by those who understand them, they are a means of praise.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King.”
Joy to the world! the Lord is come.
O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.