Written by Jimmie Burroughs
The emphasis at Christmas is on the birth of Jesus the Savior as it should be, but there is a second gift revealed in the Christmas story of Luke chapter 2:1-11 that is often overlooked, that is also of tremendous importance. See if you can pick up on it as you read the following passage from Luke chapter 2:
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Can you tell what God’s second gift is from the Christmas story?
It is the revelation of God’s glory. “And the glory of the Lord shown round about them”
We have heard the term “Glory of God” many times, but do we understand what it means?
Moses when he was on Mt Sinai said to God, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory! and enlighten the eyes of my heart so that I may know what are the riches of the glory of Thy inheritance in the saints. “ (Ex 33:18,)
God said to Moses, Yes you may see my glory, but not the fullness of it lest you die. So God hid Moses in a cleft of the rock and held his hand over his face as he passed by and then removed his hand so Moses was only able to see God from behind as he passed by.
Actually Moses had already seen God’s glory on another occasion, the burning bush experience on the back side of the desert.
The word glory means brightness; it is an effulgent brightness. The sun is an effulgent brightness. It means an intense brightness.
God’s glory is always where he is; it is the entirety of who he is; it embraces all his attributes that sets him apart from anything or anyone else.
Why is God’s second gift of Christmas so important?
I’ll give you a brief overview of “The Glory of God” beginning with a short exposition of Ezekiel chapters 8-11 where Ezekiel describes the departure of God’s glory from “Solomon’s” Temple, which was the first Temple. This was a prelude to the final destruction, in 586BC, of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.
In chapter 8 of Ezekiel, the angel of the Lord revealed the abominations of Israel and in chapter 9 he outlined the destruction of Israel because of their rebellion against God and in chapter 10 and 11, we see the final blow as God withdraws his glory. Ezekiel was seeing a flashback in time because at this point Jerusalem ,as well as Solomon’s temple, had already been destroyed but in his vision he saw why and also saw the departure of God’s glory.
He, in his vision, is standing before the mercy seat in the Holy of Hollies, and he watches as God’s glory is lifted up above the cherubim’s and then as God’s glory is above the threshold of Solomon’s temple and then over the Eastern gate of the outer court of the temple and then finally over the mountain to the east of Jerusalem; this is where the Mt of Olives is located.
The Glory of God has departed from Israel, and for over 500 years there is no mention of his Glory being present again in the form of any scriptural communication with Israel. This is referred to as the inter-testament period. The books of Apocrypha were written during this time but are not accepted as inspired by the early church or the evangelical church today.
Now in Luke’s gospel, on this dark Judean night, the sky was suddenly lit up like the mid day sun and the shepherds were afraid, no wonder. It was like nothing they had seen before. It was the blinding brightness of the Glory of God returning to Israel that would be manifested through his son Jesus and finally after the ascension of the Lord, indwell the 120 believers in the upper room in Acts chapter 2.
It is interesting to note, it was the angel of the Lord that made the announcement that the savior was born. The angel of the Lord in the Old Testament often referred to the Lord Jesus. These appearances of our Lord in the Old Testament are referred to as Theophianies. Was it Jesus who made the announcement of his own birth?
Isaiah had stated in Isaiah 40:5, some 700 years earlier that one day God’s Glory would be revealed, listen to what he says, “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” The Christmas story of Luke chapter 2 is the record of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy concerning that revelation. In this same passage he also foretells the coming of the Lord on earth as well as John The Baptist.
How would this revelation of God’s glory manifest itself?
As we come to the season of the celebration of light, let us remember the emphatic words from the gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world… And the Word dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory.” God does draw close to us and under-girds us in all we do for his kingdom. Let it be known that God is an accessible force who indwells believers with the power of his glory.
For more than 30 years the world beheld the glory of God through his son, Jesus the Lord, and then something unique to all history occurred; it had never happened before. It took place on the day of Pentecost as the 120 disciples of Jesus gathered in the upper room to worship, in Acts 2:1-4.
1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost…
Now, from that day until now, the glory of God indwells every believer. Before, all anyone ever saw was God’s glory from a distance, as the children of Israel in the wilderness as they saw the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and occasionally when the cloud of glory filled the tabernacle.
What does this mean to you and I as believers? It means we have the permanent indwelling of God’s unexplainable glory residing within us. This is what the Apostle Paul meant in 1Cor 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are God’s Temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?” As believers we are part of the body of Christ, part of God’s dwelling place, and part of God’s Temple,.
Right now, in this Christmas season, we can be a blessing to each other. We need to pause for a little while and think about it. This is, after all, the season of light and blessing. Why not let the glory of his presence in our life shine into the lives of others and give them the gift of light and the gift of life. John, the author of 1 John says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another then God abides in us and God’s love comes to perfection in us” (4:12). Earlier he says, “if we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.”
The short of it is, we can be a blessing by showing our love for one another. Love is Almighty God in action, spreading his glory abroad. It is the gift that never stops but just keeps on giving. Let us just stop and take time in this wonderful Christmas season to open up our lives to others in a much fuller and loving way, and give others a blessing. At this Christmas season of lights, learn how to have a relationship with God.