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John 1:14 (ESV)
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
WHEN GLORY APPEARED
In his short novel ‘The Great Divorce,’ C.S.Lewis depicted heaven as a place much ‘heavier’ than earth. He imagined that it is a place where the grass is “as firm as diamonds” and the water can easily be walked upon because of its density. Whether heaven is like that or not, we do not know. However, Lewis plays with the idea that anything infused with God’s glory must be stronger and more majestic than anything on earth.
He also likely got the idea of describing heaven that way because the Hebrew word for glory refers to that which is weighty or substantive. To say that an experience was ‘glorious’ would be to say that it was ‘heavier’ than other moments in the past.
As we consider the Christmas story, certainly that is exactly what the shepherds experienced on the night of Jesus’ birth.
Shortly after Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger, a ‘weighty’ event took place in a nearby field that same night. “An angel of the Lord appeared to [shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shown around them” (Lk 2:9). The unexpected light which suddenly appeared in the sky would have been quite ‘weighty’. Probably the last time in which glory had been seen like this in Judea was when Solomon had dedicated the temple in Jerusalem hundreds of years earlier. The heavenly light alone would have been historic.
However, it was also accompanied by an angel. Angel appearances were also rare among the Hebrews. Although Zechariah, Mary and Joseph had all angelic encounters by this point, the shepherds would have assumed that they were the first.
Then the angel spoke, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (2:10). These words are familiar to us now, but they were full of weight. This moment was not just for the Jews, but rather for all kinds of people - Jews and Gentiles.
Then came the birth announcement for “Christ the Lord.” Jewish believers had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries. They had longed for the day when the peace of Jerusalem would be secure again. His arrival was another reason to consider this moment glorious.
Finally, a host of angels sang the weightiest message of all – there would be “peace for those with whom God is pleased” (2:14). Since the message was given to the shepherds, could it be that the grace of God extended beyond the ritually pure? Could lowly herdsmen be people whom God looks upon with favor? What better news could be given!
These were heavy moments indeed.
Glory saturated that historic event outside of Bethlehem. But its weighty news also reaches us now. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Because of that reality, we too can see the glory of Jesus with the eyes of our heart as we receive the grace which He offers to us freely.
This Christmas, let the message of Jesus’ coming be weighty in your home. If it inspired the shepherds to search out and worship the Lord, may it do even more within us!
Lord, let our hearts prepare a place for your glory to dwell. You came to us and we come to you in order to glorify your name. Through Jesus! Amen!