Summary: Seeing God’s Glory is scary, but when we see it, it prompts us to action
Luke 2:1-20 – Seeing God’s Glory – turning fear into peace
C.S. Lewis’ celebrated children’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, tells of the adventures of four children in the magical kingdom of Narnia. The story is fun, but it’s also an allegory of Christ and salvation, with Christ represented by the lion Aslan. When in Narnia, the children meet Mr and Mrs Beaver, who describe the mighty lion to them.
"Is he a man?" asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great lion."
"ooh!" said Susan, "I’d thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake" said Mrs Beaver; "if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn’t safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr Beaver; "don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you."
Meeting Aslan was a frightening experience for Lucy and her brothers. Meeting God is no different. Why you ask? Because of God’s Glory. Today, as we look at the Christmas story as told by Luke, I want to focus on this attribute of God – His Glory. I want us to understand that though it strikes fear into the bravest of men, when seen in the light of the baby born in that manger, it brings reassurance, salvation and peace.
Before we start, I want to quickly try to define this term for you … In the Old Testament, this term was used about one who had great riches, power and position. It was a term recognizing a person’s greatness, a person’s honourable status and a person’s reputation. When it was used of God, it spoke of his majesty as the Creator, his holy perfection and his awesome greatness. Glory was an attribute associated with God which led to praise and worship. When God revealed himself to people physically, his presence was often accompanied by a bright radiant light – often called the Shekinah glory. It was a visible symbol of God’s awesomeness and came to symbolize his glory.
This is what I want to look at today. I want to see how God’s Glory was represented in the Christmas story and how different people responded to it.
Let’s pray before we open God’s word, that it may be a sword in our minds and hearts this morning.
Let’s re-read some of the Christmas Story again… Read Luke 2:8-20.
Mary and Joseph have arrived in Bethlehem and God’s Son, the Saviour of the world, the Baby Jesus had been born. And God can’t contain his excitement. He is like a proud father and just wants to tell someone. So who does he pick – Well he goes to the Roman emperor of course. No he doesn’t, he goes to a bunch of shepherds. This is surprising, because there was probably no one more overlooked than the shepherds that night in the hills outside Bethlehem. Shepherds were not what you would call the social elite; on the contrary, they were the forgotten, overlooked.
No father in Israel dreamed of his daughter marrying a sheepherder; maybe a sheep owner, but not the servants who tended the sheep. They were probably a rough lot – we know of one young shepherd who killed a bear and a lion with little more than his hands and a sling-shot – they were a tough lot, who were not easily scared! These guys slept out in the cold – among the animals. When they came to town on market days it was probably difficult to smell the difference between the sheep and the sheepherder!
Yet it was to these people, God revealed his glory. But look what happened … (vs 9) An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Seeing God’s Glory is terrifying
These men – these tough guys were terrified. Amazing isn’t it. Well, not really. God’s glory is scary! When Lucy met Aslan – she was terrified – he was a great and awesome King. When these shepherds met God’s emissary – the angel, God’s Glory accompanied him and it was scary.
This Shekinah Glory was the visible manifestation of the invisible God’s presence. Remember in the exodus, God led his people by a cloud and pillar of fire. His presence with his people in the tabernacle and later in the temple was exemplified by this radiance of his Glory – the Shekinah glory.