By Paul Lancaster
Did you manage to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) on 3rd November this year? There were many viewings, even as far south as Devon! The only time I experienced a momentary sighting was on a plane journey a few years ago. An opportunity to see such an amazing phenomenon is still on my bucket list. For those of you who have seen the Aurora Borealis I wonder how you felt at the time. No doubt words such as awesome, wonderful, glorious, magnificent spring to mind. The experience of the shepherds in the Christmas story, when the angel appeared and ‘the glory of the Lord shone around them’ (Lk 2v9) must have been similar in many ways, but even more amazing.
But what does “glory” mean? It is difficult to describe, it’s like trying to define beauty. You have to show many examples to get some understanding. The Greek word for-“glory” (doxa), meaning appearance or weight is often associated with intense light, brightness or the full weight of God’s nature. It symbolises God’s presence. The transfiguration of Jesus (Mk 9v2-4) comes to mind or when John describes the New Jerusalem, “…It shone with the glory of God and its brilliance was that of a very precious jewel…” (Rev 21v11). There are over 200 mentions of the word “glory” in the Bible, each showing a particular facet like a cut diamond.
Back to the story of the shepherds-they certainly got a glimpse of God’s glory. For them it was very much an external experience, right in the middle of their ordinary everyday circumstances (Lk 2v14) looking after their sheep. For Simeon it was more of an inner experience, after waiting many years, when he took Jesus in his arms and described him as “… a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” For John Jesus is the clearest example of God’s glory, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only…, full of grace and truth.” and Paul describes how our focus on Christ impacts us and those around us, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory…” (2Cor 4v 18)
Let’s be encouraged during this Christmas season that we can experience something more of this glory in our ordinary everyday situations. We may feel they are only glimpses but we can still reflect this to others. There will come a day when we will experience the fullness of this in the New Creation, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”(Hab 2v14)
In the meantime we don’t just need a Christmas story, as wonderful as it is, but a constant experience of His glory!