This year as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, God is focusing my heart on the glory of Christmas.
There’s only one glory story worth telling. It’s not mine and it’s not yours. It’s God’s. God’s story that gives him glory never grows old. His glory never fades. The glory of God radiates from the manger in Bethlehem. It’s one of his best glory stories, don’t you think?
The word “glory” appears frequently in the Scriptures―194 times in the Old Testament and 161 times in the New Testament to be exact, not including the many variations of the verb to glorify. The Hebrew word for “glory” means “heavy” or “weighted.” If you grew up in the 1960s and used the phrase “that’s heavy, man!” then you have some understanding of the glory of God. Christmas, we might say, is heavy, profound and glorious.
It shouldn’t surprise us that the word “glory” appears in the Christmas story several times, most notably when the angels made the birth announcement to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14).
Christmas came first to ordinary shepherds, not to the scribes and Pharisees. It’s a reminder that God “chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things―and the things that are not―to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:28-29).
The simple shepherds experienced a burst of God’s glory in a way that changed them forever.
On the first Christmas, heaven came down and the glory of God filled a place where an innkeeper kept his animals. A single angel made the trip from heaven to earth to make the announcement of the Savior’s birth. The glory of God arrived with him and enveloped the shepherds. So exciting was the moment that in no time a heavenly choir appeared singing an anthem, “Glory to God in the highest.” A real glory story was in the making.
One author writes, “God’s glory had dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34) and in the temple (2 Chron. 7:1–3), but had departed because of the nation’s sin (1 Sam. 4:21; Ezek. 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22–23). Now God’s glory was returning to earth in the person of His Son (John 1:14). That lowly manger was a holy of holies because Jesus was there!”
The dictionary defines “glory” as “very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown.” An athlete’s glory days, for example, refers to how he or she performed with distinction on the athletic field, better than others who played the same game. Football players lay claim to gridiron glory if they make it all the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The glory of God is best defined as his majestic and manifest presence on display. It’s the sum total of his divine nature, attributes and creative works. Think of it this way. The glory of God is that which makes him the exclusive member of his own hall of fame. He is completely unique, distinct and original. Jesus is his “one and only Son” (John 3:16). There is no other god like him; therefore, we should have no other gods before him (Ex. 20).
No wonder the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest.”
Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Lk 2:1