“The glory of the Lord shone around them.” -Luke 2:9
Two of my favorite Christmas songs this year were “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “O Holy Night.” Listening to the first, I’m moved by the earnest longing captured in the lyrics which is coupled with the exhortation to joyful hope. The humble joy of this hope fulfilled is conveyed in the second song. Together they encapsulate much of Advent and Christmas and the Christian life.
In Luke’s Gospel we hear two stories: Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem for Christ’s birth, and the angel appearing to the shepherds announcing it. Both are stories of the glory of God shining in the world. One is quiet, amidst the disruption of plans. The other is jarring, amidst a peaceful night in the fields.
I’m struck most by the shepherds’ experience: what must it have been like to hear that God was finally acting as He had promised? But, in my life, I mostly see the glory of God in quiet ways amidst the normality of daily life, as at the manger. This past year, I’ve encountered His glory particularly amidst the lives of the suffering and the humble faithful I’ve met.
The glory of God shines in the lives of His faithful because of the Incarnation: He has united Himself with us in our daily lives. Even in all their messiness.
I once received a vision about a river: as it flowed the water encountered rocks and the elements and was affected by them–changing course and temperature. Yet, it retained its integrity and made the jagged rocks smooth.
Mary and Joseph’s plans were affected by external factors; yet God’s plan prevailed and a humble stable became a sacred dwelling.
Because God is with us, the jagged rocks in life can become smooth. This takes attentiveness, cooperation, and faith to see. But His glory is always wanting to break through.
As we celebrate Christmas, we rejoice in the Lord’s enormous love and faithfulness. We also retain the longing for Him to come again; and for more of Him in our world, and in ourselves.
God is with us now. And, He will respond to our earnest longing for more: more of Him, His glory, and His Spirit. Let us gratefully rejoice in His presence, and hope for more.