Events on Holy Night, pt. 2

25 December

The Angels and God’s Glory

John 10:11; “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

Circa BC 4

Herod the Great was living in Jericho when the magi paid him an unexpected visit asking where they could find the King of the Jews. That visit was all it took to put Herod’s paranoia over the edge. At the same time in Rome, Caesar Augustus was pretending he was the savior of the world.

Meanwhile, the Messiah was given birth to in a little town called Bethlehem. No fanfare from the locals, or national holidays called for, but God summoned a miraculous event to take place out in the hillsides of Judea that neither Herod, nor Caesar could reproduce if they tried.

Unbeknownst to everyone, a group of shepherds were sitting in a dark field taking a well deserved respite from another long day. Suddenly and out of nowhere, the Christmas 7blackened sky turned ablaze with the thundering voice of an angel from heaven.

Luke 2:9-10; “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

The angel’s appearance wasn’t far off, nor was it a visionary experience for a party of one. No! There was no mistaking this angel was real! His appearance commanded the attention of everyone in the vicinity. The phrase ‘came upon’ (v. 10) is ephistēmi in the Greek. It’s a verb, meaning to ‘stand upon, assault, to be present (instant), come upon or unto’. It’s used with the understanding it happens with suddenness.

Not to be outdone by events in Rome or even Jericho, the glory of God was the real story.

The Glory of God

Jewish Temple 3Not since the days of Ezekiel had the Israelites seen the Glory of God, and here the Shekinah Glory was present at last! It had been a long, long time since God’s presence had been on earth.

God appeared in the flesh wrapped in swaddling clothes, and was laying in a manger in the town of Bethlehem, just as Micah had prophesied 700 years beforehand. Micah 5:2

Luke 2:11; “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

This verse tells us everything in life is now changed –

Our English word “Christ,” of course, comes from the Greek adjective christos, “anointed … fulfiller of Israelite expectation of a deliverer, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.”

Furthermore, the word “Lord” is the Greek noun kurios, which means “owner, lord, master, of earthly beings as a designation of any person of high position.”

Noteworthy, however, is how the angels phrased their announcement. It’s the only time this particular phrase ‘Christ the Lord,’ is used. This phrase makes it the highest conceivable and most lofty designation of Christ. The implications are beyond comprehension for us!

ten commandmentsGod’s Shekinah Glory was unlike anything the shepherds had ever seen before. It was just like God’s presence in the Garden with Adam and Eve, and His presence on Mt. Sinai when Moses received the Ten Commandments. It also signified God’s presence in the cloud that guided the Israelites through the desert, and when the priests went into the Holy of Holies to perform sacrifices in the temple.

To say this was a huge event would be the understatement of a lifetime. God Himself was on earth! There’s simply no way to quantify how big of a deal this was, so it’s easy to understand why the shepherds were terrified.  Even Isaiah said as much when he saw God in a vision, and is why the angel had to reassure them not to be afraid. The result of such an experience would be nothing less than abject terror – can you just imagine the scenario?

It’s also the same glory that overshadowed Mary when the angel announced to her she was going to give birth to the Savior.

Luke 1:35; “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

As a side note to our Mormon friends…The word  ‘overshadowed’ is a Greek verb meaning ‘to envelop in a haze of brilliancy; figurative to invest with preternatural influence :- overshadow.’

The next time His glory would be seen was on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John –

Matthew 17:2; “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.”

While still in the midst of God’s shining glory, the angels gave the shepherds a sign of what to look for when they went into town that was most unusual. Finding a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes wouldn’t be odd, but finding one in a feeding trough certainly would be!

Luke 2:12-14; “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

shepherds and angelsIn Luke 2:14 we find a praise song which is one of the most beautiful songs ever. ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’. In Latin it’s known by the title ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo,’. For a great video seeHandel-Messiah-Halleluiah Chorus.

This peace wasn’t just for the shepherds, or those in high positions of authority. God, in His merciful outreach to mankind, made peace available to all men, including you and me. Forever and ever, just as the song continues on to say!

In essence, the angel’s promise of peace is a declaration of salvation offered to men everywhere, and of every tribe.

A multitude of angels signifies there is an army! An army of God’s angels came down for a personal visit with the lowliest of the low in society’s eyes. If He thought that much of them, think of the implications this holds for all of us!

Luke 2:15-17; “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”

As suddenly as the angels came, they went back to heaven leaving the shepherds in awe of what they’d just witnessed, but it didn’t mean God’s presence had departed. Notice the text in vv. 15-17 telling us the shepherds, who were adverse to being amongst others, bore witness to what the angels told them. The Christ had finally arrived!

The good news is that our sin is forgiven forever, therefore we should always remember to carry joy in our hearts and lives, just as Peter expressed in his epistle –

1 Peter 1:8; “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”.

After sharing the gospel with Joseph, Mary, and others, everyone who heard it began glorifying, and praising God. Imagine what it would’ve been like to receive the unexpected visitors that night.

It was a confirmation for both Joseph and Mary they had done the right thing. For each of them it was a different confirmation for the personal thoughts that surely went through their minds.

Luke 2:18-20; “And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

For the rest of Israel it was a confirmation to the truth of what they’d been taught all their lives. Generation to generation, from the days of Moses to that time, the life of an Israelite was lived mostly with oral traditions being taught to the children for hundreds of years.

Everything in their lives depended upon the promise of a Savior, for without a Savior, their lives were a futile never-ending work with no guarantee of a promising future. Jesus’ arrival meant they had something tangible to hold onto that meant security for them and their progeny forever.

For those of us today, it can mean the same if we choose to do so! Oftentimes, we lose track of what happened 2,000 years ago and forget what miraculous events took place that night. Let’s take a step back and ponder on what the shepherds saw, just as Mary did.

Isaiah 9:2-6; “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

May you experience God’s splendid glory and presence in your own life, and not just for this Christmas season, but all through the year!

With Love in Christ;

Michelle †

1 Cor. 1:18

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