Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The glory of the Lord shone around them

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about" (Luke 2:8-15).

I know these words by heart. Do you? Our father helped all four of us children memorize them one year at Christmastime. Even our 3-year-old brother Phil could quote this whole passage. People thought he could read because he would open up his brand-new pocket New Testament (we all got one that year) and begin to recite this story. The give-away was that sometimes he held his Testament upside down as he “read.”

. . . But something special happened today as I considered this story for the umpteenth time. I saw that the text does not say that a light shone around them, but that glory of the Lord shone around them. It was a glorious, supernatural type of light. Like the light that shone from Moses’ face when he descended from the mountain where he had fellowshipped with God. Like the light that shone from Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. It’s a supernatural light that is reflected by those who are in the presence of him who “lives in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16).

Whether the glorious, palpable presence of the Lord appears as light, or with the sound of wind, or thunder, or fire, or a thick cloud, it inspires humility, awe, revelation, and a longing to be that close to God again. I notice something else in this story: the shepherds did not say “Let’s . . . see this thing . . . which the angels have told us about,” but “Let’s . . . see this thing . . . which the Lord has told us about.” Seeing angels—yes, that was amazing—but the angels had brought something vastly more wonderful with them—they had caused the shepherds to hear the voice of God himself.

I imagine that you have a story to tell of a time when God was very real to you. Did it happen because of a person who radiated the knowledge of God, or did it happen in another way? I would like to share a story of an encounter which I had several years ago. Then I would like to hear your story.

Fittingly, my encounter occurred just before Christmas. I had just delivered a gift to an assistant pastor and his family. As I prepared to leave their home, they offered to pray for healing of my cold . . . I no longer remember what happened to my physical symptoms. What I do remember is that for days thereafter I walked around in a cloud of the glory of God, passionate love keeping my heart turned constantly toward him. Their prayers, coming out of the fountain of their relationship with the Lord brought me, also, right into his presence.

. . . Don't forget to tell me your story.

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