This year my new Christmas series looks at what is represented by the word Christmas. Looking at the letters became popular back in 1963 when popular country singer, Jim Reeves, included the song, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, on his one and only Christmas album. Eddy Arnold and Jenny Lou Carson wrote the song. The lyrics are a wonderful pointer to the major elements of the story of Christ’s birth, but in the series I want to look a little deeper into each of those letters.
My previous post was entitled C is For…Wonder. Let’s move ahead to H.
There are many words related to H that connect with the Christmas season. Some of the ones we quickly recall are holly, hanging the greens, holiday, hope, hot chocolate, hot cider, hugs, and happy. The song adds herald angels to the list. We can all agree on that and we sing songs at this season that remind us of this, but have you seriously thought a bit more about this?
What would it have been like to be a shepherd watching the flocks when this glorious event occurred?
If you were a shepherd back then, you were considered to be among the lowly. Shepherds were often the older men or even women and boys (those who were not strong enough to handle other types of responsibilities), but still they were entrusted with the care and protection of the sheep. Imagine being among them on this historic night. It’s chilly and your ears are tuned in to the sounds of the sheep as well as for any predators that may be near and then suddenly…
And so it was that the heavenly host of angels appeared in the inky black sky to the least of these. Luke paints the picture for us in Luke 2:8-14 (ESV):
“8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased”
Songs refer to these angels as herald angels. A herald is one who precedes or comes before, a forerunner, and a harbinger. They were coming first to announce the birth of the Christ and these poor shepherds were chosen to be the first to hear. It’s not likely they had seen an angel before and now they are surrounded by a heavenly host of angels. Now they are experiencing the glory and splendor of God’s messengers.
Glory means magnificence or great beauty and may also mean a luminous ring or halo. It seems evident from Luke’s words there was light cascading in the midst of the angels. Splendor, another word that describes magnificent and splendid appearances, can be used to describe what the shepherds saw.
The words of scripture make clear the sight was stunning and beyond anything a person could have imagined. It would not be surprising the shepherds might be shaking. After they appeared, the angels first told them not to be afraid. They are bringing Good News, the very best news ever announced.
In the current day of neon and LED lights, it might be hard to conceive of the glory and splendor of the angel and heavenly host; but I believe it would be good to consider the reality of this event unfolding before the shepherds as best we can. Yes, we might desire a close relationship with this Jesus, this Christ Child, but we should not forget we are speaking of royalty accompanied by great glory and splendor. This is far grander than any earthly king’s trappings that instill awe and humbling respect for the office.
As we bustle about this Christmas season and listen to the songs reminding us of the events we celebrate, let us not forget nor make common what was uncommon, glorious, and full of splendor.
One day when He returns, we will see Him in all His glory for ourselves.
Are you watching for Him in excited anticipation?