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Think about the best moment you’ve ever had in your life. It might have been seeing a spectacular sunset on the ocean, holding your child for the first time when they were born, or meeting the love of your life. It’s almost as if you were given that moment to reveal something profound about life. I remember as a young man seeing the northern lights for the first time one night in Minnesota.  The pulsing, shifting hues of blue and green danced across the sky and illuminated the ground with a display that was breathtaking and beautiful. It was a night I will never forget. It was glorious.

When we read Bible stories about the first Christmas we often come across the words “glory” and “glorious.”

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them”

Luke 2: 8-9

Glory: It’s an English word that isn’t used in our current vocabulary nearly as much as when it appeared in the 14th century.  One definition of the word is “great beauty and splendor…that brings thanks and acclaim.” Back then the translators of the Bible decided the word “glory” was closest to the Greek word “Doxa” to describe the heavenly spectacle the shepherds experienced on Christmas night.

The problem is that, over time, some words lose their intended meaning, and many people today think the word “glory” is merely some detached, religious expression.

That’s too bad because the word has rich meaning if only we check out its context in the Bible.

Reflect a moment on the shepherd’s experience before that Christmas night. These people were the filthy outcasts of their day: the lowest of the social classes, often stereotyped as thieves or equivalent to the hated tax collectors. Here is what on author wrote:

“The Mishnah, Judaism’s written record of the oral law, also reflects this prejudice, referring to shepherds in belittling terms. One passage describes them as “incompetent”; another says no one should ever feel obligated to rescue a shepherd who has fallen into a pit.”

source: http://www.epm.org/resources/2008/Mar/11/shepherds-status

The religious leaders of their day even used the dreaded word “sinners” to describe shepherds. Dismissed as irrelevant and unworthy by their culture, the shepherds had no reason to expect that they would be the first ones God chose to hear the heavenly announcement of the birth of Christ.

But God doesn’t operate by mere human rules or expectations.  The Bible puts it this way:

“…God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

1 Corinthians 1:27

For the shepherds, the “glory” they experienced wasn’t just in what they saw that night. What made the glory of God most amazing was that God chose THEM: the lowest of the low, the filthiest of the filthy!  In that perfect moment, God not only revealed the good news of the birth of Jesus, but also their worth to Him! The shepherds’ experience of God’s beauty and power was so profound it changed the trajectory of their lives: not just in the celestial song, but also especially in the encounter they had with the one the angels sang about: Jesus Christ. It was the best moment of their live. It was glorious!

There is a message in this story:

•    No matter what you have done, good or bad, in your life;

•    No matter what other people say about you, true or untrue;

•    No matter if you are rich, poor, or in-between

•    No matter the disappointments or successes of our life,

God chooses you.  You have eternal value and worth to Him.

God wants to reveal Himself to you in a glorious and intimate way. There won’t necessarily be an angelic choir or starry fireworks, but when we allow God into the depth of our being, we enter into an incredible, enduring encounter with God. It’s a new relationship in which God shows us our infinite worth and place in his heart and kingdom.  Just like the shepherds, the purpose and trajectory of our life can change when we embrace the God who has called us.

That is what Christmas is all about:

Unforgettable…

Life-changing…

…and Glorious.

Have a blessed Christmas!

Chris Atkins

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