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While Mary was laboring to give birth to her son and tending to him in the hours after, shepherds were going about their mundane work. On this most humble, ordinary of nights, God gave his people a glimpse of glory. Surrounded by the sounds of livestock, an angel broke through the dark, shining with the glory of the Lord.
His appearance was enough to startle the shepherds. These men were working, as usual, not expecting that night to glimpse the bright light of God’s glory. In the midst of their fear, the angel made a stunning proclamation. That very day a child was born, a child who is their promised Savior and Lord (Luke 2:11).
Our Lord, Our God
What our Bibles translate as the word “Lord” is the word kyrios in the Greek New Testament. In classical Greek, kyrios is a title for the head of a household, like the words master or sir. Such a title is a stunning elevation for a child born under humble conditions, but the shepherds understood that the angel’s words carried a greater significance.
According to theologian Wayne Gruden, the Greek Old Testament uses the word kyrios 6,814 times to translate the very name of God, Yahweh (Grudem, 1995). So, when the shepherds heard the angel speak, they heard the angel announce the child not only as their promised savior but as their God. The tender, yet powerful voice of God Himself broke through years of silence to reveal his glory through the person of Jesus Christ.
Sinclair Ferguson calls believers to not just consider what this means, but to be forever changed by this radical proclamation. He says,
“If your intellect has never been staggered by the reality of the incarnation, you don’t know what the incarnation means. It doesn’t mean Jesus was a little baby. It means the eternal, infinite, divine One, worshiped by Cherubim and Seraphim, the Creator of all things, the sustainer of all things, infinite in His being, wisdom, power, majesty, and glory – who in a word could dissolve the world that had sinned against Him – was willing to come into this world and assume our flesh in order to become our Savior. It is overwhelming. That’s the great thing about the gospel.”(Ligonier Ministries, 2019)
Gospel Comfort and His Future Glory
The angels not only revealed Christ’s deity, they also proclaimed his purpose. God had come, and he had come to save. As the light broke through the dark, mundane night, so God has shown “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” into our dark hearts (2 Corinthians 4:4). God’s greatest revelation of his glory to humanity is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”Isaiah 40:1-5
What a comfort this brings to the soul burdened by sin! Our “warfare is ended” and our “iniquity is pardoned.” The glory of the Lord is revealed not through our pilgrimage to him, but through his incarnation and work of redemption.
And while God made his glory known to a few through the earthly ministry of Jesus and to even more through the “light of the gospel,” there will come a day when “all flesh shall see it together.” There will come a day greater than Christmas, greater than the incarnation, when each one of us will see the fullness of God’s glory. For those in Christ, there can be no greater comfort or joy.
Meditate on His Glory
In the 2006 film version of Charlotte’s Web, the narrator discusses our tendency to quickly forget the miraculous. He states, “…what was amazing yesterday was suddenly ordinary today.” (Winick, 2006) And how true is this of our thoughts toward the incarnation? As Ferguson says, the incarnation is more than acknowledging that Jesus was born as a baby. When we focus our eyes only on the baby we miss God’s glory shining in the midst of our ordinary.
After the shepherds saw the glory of the Lord revealed, they immediately went to Bethlehem to see their Savior and their God. They spread the angel’s words, leaving others wondering in amazement. Mary, upon hearing the proclamation, treasured and pondered her God’s words as she gazed at the face of her Savior.
We can only imagine her thoughts and emotions during this time, but I assume she felt immense comfort in seeing and meditating on the glory of God. Christ had come to crush the snake (Genesis 3:14, Hebrews 2:14), pardon her iniquity (1 John 1:9), and reveal his glory to mankind (John 1:14). Endless striving toward an unattainable keeping of the law was about to end as the more perfect Adam had come to be her substitute (Romans 5:19, Hebrews 2:17-18).
May we not neglect the discipline of meditating on the Word made flesh, but instead find comfort in the glory of God as we behold, meditate on, and proclaim the incarnation and the gospel. God has come and he has come to save! “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14)