Beyond Terrified

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (NIV)
Luke 2:9

Our culture, for the most part, gets angels all wrong. Try googling “angel”, like I did, and you’ll see what I mean. Cute, harp-toting, girly, and most definitely harmless. Even in the church, sometimes we get the wrong idea (maybe because of the adorable angels in our Christmas pageants). That’s not at all how they are in the Bible. Angels are strong, fearsome, masculine warriors. There’s a good reason the first thing an angel always says is, “Fear not,” – they’re terrifying.

That said, angels:

Bring good news (here, in Luke 2)

Bring food and comfort (to Elijah, in 1 Kings 19)

Protect God’s people (2 Kings 6)

and Worship God (Revelations 5)

They aren’t here for the purpose of terrifying us, but to do God’s will. They just scare people in the process.

I can understand the shepherds’ initial fear and confusion at the sight of an angelic host appearing before them in the night. In spite of their first reaction, they listened. They got the message. So should we.
~Gunnar Garrett (age 13)

 

Gunnar as a brilliant and terrifying angel in the Chapel Christmas pageant a few years ago. Photo by Julie Garrett

Gunnar as a brilliant and terrifying angel in the Chapel Christmas pageant a few years ago. Photo by Julie Garrett

Advertisements

Heaven and Earth Come Together

See, amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on Earth below,
See, the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Chorus:
Hail, thou ever blessed morn,
Hail redemption’s happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits among the cherubim.

Say, ye holy shepherds, say,
What your joyful news today;
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?

“As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light:
Angels singing ‘Peace On Earth’
Told us of the Saviour’s birth.”

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.

Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.
Written by Edward Caswall with the music composed by John Goss.

This 19th Century English carol has unfortunately remained outside the typical American repertoire of Christmas Carols. The work is composed of six verses that functionally serve as a conversation between the angel who is come to proclaim the birth of the Savior and the shepherds to whom the angel appeared. Both angel and shepherd stand in awe of what has just happened: that the very Word by which the earth was created now dwells among us.

The early church father, St. Athanasius, suggests that because it was Christ as the Divine Word who was our creator (Colossians 1:15-23), it is He who must serve as our re-creator. It is this same Christ, the promise of mankind from all eternity, who was born for us on earth below. On that first night, what a blessing it is to catch a glimpse of the fulfillment of these promises. In the fellowship of shepherds and angels, sharing the joy of the Son of God made incarnate, we are given a brief picture of heaven, that eternal joy, the eternal proclamation of Christ as King. We are given the briefest glimpse of what it will mean for heaven and earth to come together in common purpose: an eternity dedicated to knowing the breadth of what it means to hail Christ as King.

When I hear this song, the chorus is the shared hymn of angels and shepherds, of saints and sinners. In Christ, the highest in heaven and the lowest on earth are given the boldness and joy to sing through all Jerusalem. Where beings as different as angels and humans can stand together in praise of Christ we are given encouragement. All races, all languages, all cultures will someday stand together praising Christ. On that first night we were assured of this as the perfection of an angel and the weakness of a shepherd shared this joy. Standing before Christ, angels and humanity say together “Teach, O teach us, holy Child, by thy face so meek and mild, teach us to resemble thee, in thy sweet humility.”

~Ben Gibson

Come, Deliver This World, and Us, Forever

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with afright,
But hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.

This night of wonder, night of joy,
was born the Christ, our brother;
he comes, not mighty to destroy,
to bid us love each other.
How could he quit his kingly state
for such a world of greed and hate?
What deep humiliation
secured the world’s salvation!

Come, dearest child, into our hearts,
and leave your crib behind you!
Let this be where the new life starts
for all who seek and find you.
To you the honor, thanks, and praise,
for all your gifts this time of grace;
come, conquer and deliver
this world, and us, forever.

Words, verse 1: Johann Rist, 1641;
trans. John Troutbeck, ca. 1885; Words: vv. 2 & 3 by Fred Pratt Green

_______________________________________________________

The first time I ever heard this carol was when my father picked it for our family to sing for a church “gift exchange”.  I thought it odd.  I’d not heard it before and wondered why we couldn’t just sing something more familiar — some nice simple Christmas carol about that night in Bethlehem.

As an adult, however, I have come to understand and therefore love this hymn.  Let’s take a walk through it and I’ll explain why:

Verse 1:

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with afright,
But hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.

Oh, how I have grown to see the darkness of the world we live in!  Evil really does exist.  School shootings, terrorists, destructive relationships in families that effect the children– these are but a few of the dark things that weigh on my mind.  And sometimes that darkness seems overwhelming, not only to me, but evidently to many others.  Today is December 21 — the winter solstice. When I picked this carol, the first line made me think about that so I looked up celebrations for the winter solstice.  One website suggested a “Candlelight Ceremony” where all the lights are out and participants “remember and honor the sun’s light” before starting with a big candle and lighting smaller one’s off  of it to fill the room with light.  Sound familiar?  We will be doing this during this Advent season.  HOWEVER, we will do it to honor the SON — that child spoken of in this verse who came to break the power of darkness — Satan’s power — and give us peace.  It is He who created the light of morning; it is He who is the Source, not only of that physical light but also of the light which overcomes the darkness of our world.

Verse 2:

This night of wonder, night of joy,
was born the Christ, our brother;
he comes, not mighty to destroy,
to bid us love each other.
How could he quit his kingly state
for such a world of greed and hate?
What deep humiliation
secured the world’s salvation!

Though my reason for picking this hymn is mostly found in verse 1, I had to highlight verse 2 for one simple reason.  The song “Glorious Day” by Casting Crowns has been an important one for me this past year as it has made me realize that Jesus left the glory of Heaven — His “kingly state” referred to in this carol,  to come HERE — to this dark, fallen world!  What a sacrifice!  It has struck me this year as I lament the evil and darkness of the world around me; Jesus willingly came here, knowing how messed up this world is, to “secure the world’s salvation!”  What a gift!

Verse 3:

Come, dearest child, into our hearts,
and leave your crib behind you!
Let this be where the new life starts
for all who seek and find you.
To you the honor, thanks, and praise,
for all your gifts this time of grace;
come, conquer and deliver
this world, and us, forever.

So today, let us honor, give thanks to ,and praise Jesus, the Son of God, who came to break the power of darkness in this world and in us.  Let our prayer truly be “Come, conquer and deliver this world, and us, forever.”  And may that prayer give us purpose and peace as we live our lives for Him.

~Tricia Hitchcock

 

 

For All the People

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Luke 2:10

Can there be more beautiful words than these?  It must be the most wonderful song ever sung:

Don’t be afraid; be holding on to these words tightly.

I have come especially to tell you this; you have been chosen to be the first to hear.

This isn’t just good news; this is the greatest news ever!

This isn’t just going to make you happy;  you will be overjoyed!

This isn’t just news for you alone; this is for everyone, everywhere, for every time, for evermore.

The best gift of all has been given; no one, not one, has been left out.

And this song was sung for us all to hear.

Behold.  Be holding tight.  To His Word.  To each other.  To Him.

~ Emily Gibson

reblogged from Barnstorming

Accustomed to Darkness

And the glory of the Lord shone round about them
and they were sore afraid.  Luke 2:9

Brilliant light claimed a part of one Judean evening so many years ago. The men who saw it were not unlike us; they were familiar with darkness, wary of whatever might harm their livelihood and always on the watch for predators. More than us, they were always keen for the first glimpse of dawn on the horizon, glad for the peace daylight brings.

Light came to those men in a way they never expected. That evening, they became a part of the select few who had seen God’s glory barefaced and without warning. God chose to proclaim the first news of his light and his peace to men who were waiting for daylight to come. After so many years of silence, the Father revealed his glory, yet he did not leave them in fear; he proclaimed the news of his grace. When the sky darkened again, these men departed with unveiled faces to see for themselves this glory: the salvation of God.

We are not unlike them: we too are accustomed to darkness, familiar with fear, waiting for news of peace. We too have unveiled faces, and we wait in the hope of God’s promise: that we will become a part of that glory, that our faith shall become sight.

Don’t stop waiting. It may be as night, but the King has come, and he will come again.

~Breanna Siebring

“Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light.” – C.S. Lewis

Keeping Watch In Humble Posture

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Luke 2:8

Posture. When hearing the word, the tendency is to think of a Puritan schoolhouse with a teacher wrapping knuckles for sitting up straight. It is a word with negative connotations in the minds of most. However, it serves as the key word in understanding the significance of the shepherds during that night of God’s incarnation.

Though we focus on the journey to the cross during the season of Lent, these shepherds of the advent give us a deep instruction in what the preparation of our hearts looks like in coming to the cross. Hebrew shepherds were no slouches. As we are told, they were keeping watching over their flock by night. They were the young, vigorous, and immensely humble of Hebrew society. The stories of David remind us that shepherds lived and acted sacrificially to no great gain on their part (David wrestled with lions yet remained last in the mind of the prophet Samuel).

The season of Lent calls us to assume a shepherd’s posture. We are interruptible, ready to run to see and worship Christ in the very moments when He is stripped of splendor—at birth and on the cross. During Lent we place ourselves in this humble posture, reminded that it is a life of submission and preparedness to which we are called. ~Ben Gibson