There have only been a few moments in my life where I truly felt awestruck by what I was seeing or experiencing. The first time I saw the sequoias and when the Cubs won the World Series come to mind, but nothing really compares to when my wife said ‘yes’ or the birth of my children. I’ve had moments that have taken my breath away, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a collapse-to-the-ground moment of awe.
Philippians 2:10-11 says, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” Sounds like collapse-to-the-ground kind of awe to me…
Let’s latch on to that word ‘glory’ for a moment.
What is God’s glory? The word appears nearly 600 times in scripture. I’ve heard it described many different ways, but our definitions seem almost as difficult to grasp as the glory of God itself. So here’s my best shot: God’s glory is described as brilliance and brightness, like a fire. It instant grabs our attention and leaves us awestruck. Essentially, it is a dose of God’s character that we can handle. Any more of it, and we would drop dead.
We want God’s presence, but the truth is, we can’t handle God’s presence! So he gives himself to his people in a way we can handle. The glory of God can appear to us, be revealed to us, and be seen by us, but we couldn’t handle the full presence of God.
That brings us to these shepherds hanging out with sheep in the Judean countryside outside of Bethlehem. In Luke 2, we read that an angel of the Lord appeared to them and ‘the glory of the Lord’ shined around them…and they were terrified! I think I’ve often skipped over the ‘glory of the Lord’ part of the story and believed it was the angel that terrified them, but looking more closely, I see that they got a dose of the brilliant fire of God’s presence, and their spirit was beginning to melt with fear.
It’s a good thing they already smelled like sheep, if you get my drift.
Whenever the ‘glory of the Lord’ appeared, it caused the same sort of reaction. It caused Moses to age instantly on the mountain, and in the book of Revelation, John fell flat on his face as though he were dead in the presence of the glorified Christ.
I wonder if we have lost the ‘wow’ of the Living God? We don’t live in simple times. Instead, we live in an age of artificial shock and awe with graphic computer and film-generated violence and technology that can artificially created ‘alternative realities’ that blow our mind. We expect every commercial, every vacation, every conversation (and even every sermon) to catch our attention in order to compete with this artificial shock and awe. Notice how we don’t even react to the horrors anymore? It’s as though we’ve been purposely numbed.
Some day, we will be confronted with the full weight of his glory! The God who cannot be contained — too great for us to handle — came to us in a way we can handle: Jesus. Glory to God! He has come to us greatly humbled so we could receive him, but he will one day come again in full glory — collapse-to-the-ground kind of glory.
Come to the One who came close to us.
And be awestruck!