Sunday, December 25, 2016

Pondering Glory

By Rev. Joel Brondos

The glory of the multitude of an angelic host praising God -- has any mortal flesh ever witnessed anything as magnificent as that which lowly shepherds experienced?

They then went to see Jesus as it had been told them, a babe lying in a manger, making widely known the marvels which they had seen and heard . . . and then what?

After such an astounding event, did they not expect some imminent follow-through -- some comparable fulfillment on the heels of so great a portent?

But, nothing.

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, but it would be thirty years before anything out of the ordinary would happen again. Could they do anything more but go back to their shepherding?

Now, in 2016, Christmas has come . . . and gone. Whatever might have been glorious -- paltry in terms of what the shepherds experienced with our LED lights, glittered decorations, mail-order gifts, seasonal music and high-calorie food -- now fades in the rear-view mirror. Did it satisfy? Did it fail to live up to the hype yet another year? Do we now just go back to our daily duties, counting 364 days until the next round?

Mary had her own encounter with an angel as well as other unexpected visitors from poor shepherds to rich magi. They came with accounts of their own to confess the One born to be Savior. But after these passed, Mary, too, had to wait. There was no immediate consummation of all that she had seen and heard.

And yet, there was not just a going back to business as usual. We read that Mary treasured all these things in her heart (Luke 2:19). Couldn't these words have sustained her throughout the years and even as she stood at the foot of the cross when her soul was pierced through (Luke 2:35)?

This Christmas, with Mary, when the worldly glamour and festivities have passed, we treasure all these things in our hearts. We return to our daily chores, and from time to time we are likely to be bloodied and bruised with the cares of this life, but our hearts ponder the news first proclaimed by angels, confessed by shepherds, worshiped by wise men. 

We return to our homes, schools, and workplaces, glorifying and praising God for all that has been proclaimed to us in His Word, knowing that it may take thirty years or more, but we shall be called into that glory from whence the angels came. That glory shall not terrify us as it did the shepherds because we have been baptized and clothed in the holiness and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the historic Lutheran liturgy of the Divine Service, we weekly sing the message of the angelic hosts to the shepherds in the Gloria Patri. With "angels and archangels and with all the heavenly host we laud and magnify the Lord's glorious name, ever more praising Him . . ." only to return to our daily duties with joy, treasuring these things in our hearts. (1 Peter 5:4) " . . . and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away."