It must have been an incredible experience for those shepherds on the hills outside Bethlehem. Huddled around the fire for warmth they had no idea what was about to happen…
Luke 2:9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
These days, influenced as we are by cute nativity plays, we don’t appreciate just what this would have been. An angelic messenger, not some Boticelli cherub, and a dazzling display of what Luke describes as “the glory of the Lord”.
An encounter with an expression of God’s glory – His greatness, goodness and holiness – can never leave us unaffected. Hundreds of years earlier the prophet Isaiah learned the same,
Is. 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
It was an amazing, glorious (John 12:41), encounter. Isaiah responded in the only way possible:
Is. 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
To come face to face with the glory of God is to realise how unglorious we are. It is to acknowledge our sin (Rom 3:21) and, perhaps for the first time, to truly understand how desperate our plight should be. And so no wonder the shepherds are terrified.
Which makes the very first words of the angel such wonderful news!
Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid…”
It’s the best thing we can hear when terrified of the consequence of our sin and it’s no empty promise. For the angel tells them exactly why fear is not the right response,
…I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Jesus, the descendant of King David, the promised Messiah, the Lord, has come. We need fear the consequence of our sin no more for He has come to save us. Wonderful wonderful news this Christmas time.