“SURPRISED BY HIS GLORY”
December 7th, 2007
“The time has come!” The news spread like lightning throughout heaven. Within moments the heavenly host was assembled bursting with excitement. They had been rehearsing for this very day for years…centuries…millennia. Every note must be perfect, every voice exactly in tune. The curtain was about to rise on their greatest performance since, well, since the creation of the world when “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy.” – Job 38:7. This performance would be even more impressive because they would sing of an even greater miracle, and this time human ears would hear their music. “Messiah has come!” “Christ is born!” “God has become man!” The host could hardly contain their joy.
But what would be the scene of this grand concert? Speculation had run wild as the day drew near. “A palace with gathered royalty for an audience,” some had suggested. Others envisioned a great concert hall filled with dignitaries and patrons of the arts. Still others had their hopes set on a majestic outdoor amphitheater packed with thousands of appreciative fans. When at last the location was announced an unbelieving gasp echoed across heaven. The greatest concert ever heard on earth would be performed in a lonely pasture outside a tiny village called Bethlehem to an audience of a small handful of shepherds and a bunch of bleating sheep.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” shouted the angelic conductor. “You’re sending heaven’s finest to sing for a grubby crew of unsophisticated, artistically ignorant, night watchmen in one of the most desolate, out of the way, wrong-side-of-the-tracks outpost in the universe?”
The heavenly host began to wail in protest. But one glance toward the throne told them there was no mistake. There was nothing to do but obey. With practiced precision the conductor raised his baton and the host snapped to attention. In a flash heaven was emptied of their presence and the power of God carried them to their unlikely stage. Meanwhile, a group of very ordinary shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks one night, lost in the darkness of their monotonous existence, were suddenly overwhelmed by God’s glory and found themselves in the front row seats at the downbeat of the most spectacularly beautiful concert ever heard by human ears.
Are you as amazed as I am over this part of the Christmas story? Why would He do it? Why would God send such an incredible display of heaven’s glory to such an unlikely audience? Yes, I’m aware these fields were in the same vicinity where Boaz met Ruth centuries earlier and the earthly family line of Christ was begun. Yes, I understand these shepherds were possibly watching over the flocks which were reserved for the temple sacrifices in nearby Jerusalem. Why not send these shepherds to watch over another sacrificial Lamb, one who would take away the sins of the world?
But I believe there is more to this amazing performance than just clever staging or some deeply hidden Christological meaning. God may very well have chosen to lavish His glory on these individuals not so much because of their occupation or where they happened to be, but precisely because of who they were—nothing but ordinary, run-of-the-mill, dirty, smelly, lonely, futureless, sin-plagued, hopeless inhabitants of a lost world—exactly like you and I would be were it not for the coming of a Savior!
The angel proclaimed, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” – Luke 2:10. And, as if to emphasize “for all the people,” the news was given to ordinary shepherds, perhaps the most common of all the people. The heavenly host sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:14. Their unsophisticated, work-weary, impoverished audience reveals that God’s peace and favor are available to those who have the greatest need for such. This is indeed “good news” for we are included in “all the people.” And, as members of the body of Christ, we of all people should realize how much we need God’s peace and favor.
Be encouraged my friends because God has His eye on us ordinary folk, even if we happen to be an unsophisticated, grubby crew of night watchmen in one of the most desolate, out-of-the-way, wrong-side-of-the-tracks, outpost in the universe. We would do well to cease being concerned only with watching over our personal “sheep pen” and start looking upward. The good news wasn’t all exhausted that glorious evening long ago. Indeed, the Lord who was born that night is due to return and when He does, we might expect to witness an even more stunning accompaniment. Even now the heavenly host is rehearsing. The nearness of their performance is raising the level of their excitement to the point of bursting. The celestial symphony will be joining the choir for this concert and I have it on the best of authority that the trumpet section will be featured.
“They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” – Matthew 24:30-31. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God…” – 1Thessalonians 4:16.
So do not be envious of those lowly shepherds on the glorious night of our Savior’s birth. There are more angelic pronouncements to come and a grand finale concert that will shake the foundations of the universe and bring the curtain down on human history. Whether we are alive or long since departed at the giving of the downbeat, those of us who belong to Christ, no matter how unsophisticated, no matter where we reside, will have a front row seat for this incredible performance. After all, God has a history of lavishing heaven’s finest on earth’s most ordinary of audiences. So be alert, keep an eye on the heavens, and don’t be too overwhelmed if someday, lost in the darkness of your own monotonous existence, you too are surprised by His glory.
Bill, a child of God looking upward