“And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” Isaiah 40:5
Surprises are one of my favorite parts of Christmas, and revealing the surprise ranks right up there with the surprise itself. Many years ago, I was given tickets to come home from Russia to be with my family for Christmas. It was such a blessing. I only told my brother-in-law who promised to pick me up at the airport so we could surprise the rest of the family. Eventually, because of the timing of the flights, he had to tell my sister, so she wouldn’t wonder why he was sneaking out in the middle of the night. We didn’t tell my parents or my youngest sister.
I arrived at midnight, spent the night with my sister’s family, and the following day we went to look at a house they were considering renting. They took videos and told mom and dad that they would bring them over, so they could see what the house looked like. While they were getting the camera ready to record what was about to happen, I hid in the car. Then I slipped in the front door and walked into the kitchen when they were least expecting it.
I’ll never forget my mom’s wide-eyed reaction. “Rachel! Rachel! Rachel!” she screamed. Then my dad realized what was going on and had a similar reaction, though in a much more subdued manner. We laughed and cried and hugged and laughed some more. But the surprises weren’t over.
The next evening, my sister and her boyfriend came home from Minnesota where they were both attending college. I hid in the bathroom while they drug their suitcases in and while my sister gave my mother yet another surprise, revealing the ring that had so recently been placed on her finger. I waited a moment more as screams and hugs and laughter and tears were all passed around once more. Then I revealed myself, stepping out into the living room and saying, “So, do I get to see the ring?”
My sister jumped or skipped or something. I’m not really sure what you would call it, but she came up off the floor with excitement and then up the stairs for a hug.
What a wonderful Christmas that was. But with all the revealing of those secrets, there was a better Christmas—the first Christmas.
Imagine the surprise of Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph when the angels visited them. Imagine the surprise of Elisabeth when she found she was expecting. Imagine the surprise of the shepherds when they saw the heavenly host and heard the announcement that the Messiah had been born. Imagine the surprise of the wise men as they realized they would see this great King. Imagine the joy of Anna and Simeon. Christ had come and the glory of God had been and was about to be revealed in a way no man had ever seen before.
The Promise of Deliverance
Isaiah chapter forty lays out a beautiful promise for the people of Israel—the promise of deliverance. The hope that in God’s time, He would extend grace to them and they would be set free from those who held them in captivity. But the promise didn’t end there.
The Promise of a Savior
Isaiah’s prophecy looked much further down the road not only to that night in Bethlehem but also to the ministry and sacrifice of Christ. God had already been preparing the way by the time that night came. He’d prepared Mary and Joseph and Zacharias and Elisabeth. He’d prepared the star. He’d ensured there would be a place for the little family in the stable. How amazing that night must have been. That night when the King of the Universe stepped out of Heaven and into this sin-sick world and brought just a little of His glory with Him.
The Glory of His Presence
Imagine the splendor of that night, the amazement of the shepherds, and the awe of Mary who held her son—and yet her God—in her arms. In this lay the glory of that night. Not that a child had been born, but that God had come to earth in a manner which allowed all flesh—all mankind—to see Him. The glory of that night is not that a group of weary shepherds saw a host of angels, but that Emmanuel came. God with us! Oh, the glory of His presence. The glory of a God who in His holiness has every right to turn His back from the wicked hearts of His creation, and yet who chose to walk among us, to comfort us, to heal us, to teach us, to die for us—to forgive us.
The Surety of the Promise
Israel had no cause to doubt the certainty that Isaiah’s prophecy would come true. Not because Isaiah was reliable, although he was, but because this prophecy was without a doubt from the mouth of God. Over and over in the book of Ezekiel God said, “I the Lord have spoken it and will do it.” Here the promise is no less. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it and you know it to be true because it is the Word of God. What a promise! What a joy to have a God who can be trusted to such an extent that we need never doubt His promises.
This Christmas let us rejoice in the glory that was revealed that night so long ago. Let us rejoice that God chose to walk among us. Let us rejoice that He is among us still and has promised never to leave us nor to forsake us.
This year, I’m doing something I’ve never done before, completely unplanned. I’m going through Handel’s Messiah and meditating on the Scripture used there. For accountability’s sake, I’ll be sharing it here and on Facebook. If you’d like to join me for this series and other updates, simply fill out the form below.
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