Picture the scene according to Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2 8-19 NIV version), the shepherds taking care of their sheep. Perhaps they were gathered around a campfire intended to ward away the wild animals, admiring the stars and enjoying the stillness of the night. Maybe they were recounting tales about how they had fought off wild animals to protect their flock or were commenting on the impact of the census and the increased number of travellers on the road to Bethlehem. Suddenly they are interrupted:
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them’. (Luke 2:9)
Why did the angels appear and proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth to these nameless, isolated, poorly educated and lowly shepherds? As disciples of Jesus we know that our Lord uses those who feel they have the least to give; and He also surprises us by granting us the strength and courage to do the extraordinary.
And then, as if on an unbidden cue; a whole crowd of angels appear singing and praising God. It was the choir of all choirs; the musical to top all musicals; a moment of uncontainable and utter joy:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
We can imagine it was as if the darkest night turned to dazzling day in an instant. Whatever happened that evening it was not a subtle nudge; it was enough to cause these tough shepherds to tremble with fear.
‘The Glory of the Lord’ is a well-known and frequent phrase and concept especially in the Old Testament. It is used most often in Exodus and Numbers; when Moses is leading Israel as they wandered around in the desert for 40 years. In Exodus the glory of the Lord is something tangible; it is seen, it settles, it appears, it fills. Not only that it guides, it comforts and it reminds God’s people of God’s imminence.
We read in the Psalms and Isaiah how God’s glory is announced and proclaimed by the heavens simply because they were created by Him. Psalm 19:1 says ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ As the author David Wilkinson points out in ‘The Message of Creation’ “This creation shouts and exclaims the glory of God in wordless revelation.” Our environment – nature, flora and fauna, exists to glorify God, and remind us of God’s glory.
How do we in today’s busy period of Christmas preparation give time and space to listen to what is being shouted out to us by creation? How can our lives be interrupted by the good news?
Creation continues to reveal the glory of God if we were to open our eyes and ears to see and hear. Just as the message of the heavenly host of angels, proclaims and prays; we start by giving glory to God through nurturing, enjoying and protecting what He has made; because we surely want to help creation declare God’s glory.
This leads us to consider carefully how our actions are contributing towards building peace and goodwill or tearing it down. This Christmas we can choose to be more aware of the decisions we make and its wider impact on people and planet; whether it’s reviewing the sustainability or ethical value of the gifts you buy, the decorations you choose or the food you buy. Creation will be impacted by our Christmas decisions; from excess waste, and packaging. This could be your gift back to God’s beautiful creation this Christmas.
As we reflect on the story of our Saviour this Christmas – let us share the hope we have and glorify God as we connect with each other and nature this Christmas.
This reflection was written by A Rocha UK’s Supporter Relations Officer, Sara Kandiah for the Wild Christian November email, ‘Nature and Christmas.’