Summary: The fullest expression and revelation of God's glory come in the form of an infant child, the Son of God born in a humble stall.
We’ve been talking about the glory of God, and we were studying the glory of God primarily through the Exodus stories where the descriptions of God’s glory were these awe-inspiring displays of power, of majesty, the pillar of fire, God on the mountain with Moses, God seated on the heavenly throne like the all-powerful King that He is. For example, and as a reminder, from Exodus 19: “16 On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. 17 Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. 19 As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply. 20 The Lord came down on the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses climbed the mountain.”
That is quite a powerful picture of the glory of God! But it is not the only way God reveals His glory to us. This is only a partial revelation of the glory of God, and in fact God had a plan to reveal His glory in an even more powerful, yet unexpected way.
Glory in a barn?
Without question, the most-full expression of the glory of God that we have been given is not at the mountain with the smoke billowing and the mountain shaking and the ram’s horn getting louder and louder and God’s voice thundering. No. The most full expression of the glory of God begins, instead, in a smelly barn with a couple of scared teens who were pregnant out of wedlock, surrounded not by loud horns and shaking mountains and the thundering voice of God, but by bleating goats and mooing cows. The ground beneath God is not a brilliant pure lapis lazuli but a dirt floor covered with straw and littered with animal dung. And this reveals to us the glory of God.
Why? Because God wants to be touched. God wants to be experienced. In the Old Testament portrayals we see God the King, unapproachable except by the High Priests, who come with fear at the power of God, and who generally (with notable exceptions such as King David) keep the Holy God at a safe distance. And there is truth in this; we find ourselves in much trouble when we forget that the God who wishes to be touched and experienced is not one of us, is not a “buddy”, and is certainly not our equal. But as true as that is, that God is awesome and holy, there is a deeper truth to the glory of God.
It comes to us in the form of a normal, average, completely human infant. Completely God, also, which is where the revelation of glory comes. We find it most clear in the words of Simeon, you remember the story from when Joseph and Mary go to the Temple in Jerusalem to bring the purification offering and dedicate their new-born son to God (from Luke 2):
“25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
“He is the glory of your people Israel”. Simeon was holding an 8 day old baby boy, but as he was filled with the Holy Spirit he saw not just the human flesh, but the reality of who this child was. He recognized the glory of God.
Now, can you wrap your head around that with me? Because it is pretty important… the glory of God is to be touched, experienced, encountered, and so it comes to us in a form that is intensely touchable, incredibly approachable, amazingly encounterable. God as a baby is meant to be held, cuddled, hugged close. This glory is intimate and approachable, so humble that He makes Himself utterly dependent on others. And He comes to you and to me, deeply desiring that we would see, as Simeon did, that this “is the glory of Israel”.