Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Close Encounter of a Christmas Kind (and better than a movie)

"And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid." Luke 2:8 (emphasis mine).

Long, long ago in a Galilee far, far away a group of shepherds spent the evening minding their own business and tending their sheep. It was just another night, or so they thought. Without any advanced warning (or ticket sales) their quiet night in the field was suddenly interrupted by a heavenly visitor whose appearance set them reeling. Supernatural apparitions were for holy men and priests not lowly shepherds...or so one might suppose.

"Fear not!" the divine messenger proclaimed excitedly (easy for him to say). "I bring you good news, tidings of great joy for everyone." Good news to the shepherds would be that they'd live and not die because of this encounter. "There is born to you, in Bethlehem, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."

"A Savior? Did he really say what we thought I heard him say?" The shepherds whispered to each other daring not to interrupt the imposing creature before them. "Here's a sign for you. You'll find this baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." The angel's glow intensified as each word was spoken with increasing jubilation.

"Manger? Did he say manger? Still recovering from the shock of the angel's unexpected appearance, the men scrambled to make sense of this message. "What kind of Savior is born in a manger?" The promised Messiah was going to be royalty, not some poor peasant. The Messiah in a manger...preposterous.

Before they could completely compose themselves their lone visitor was surrounded by a host of others like himself and some more terrifying. Cherubim, burnished bronze in color, with four faces (lion, ox, eagle, man), eight hands and sixteen wings with two legs that looked like those of a calf flashed like lightning across the sky. Seraphim, who stand above the throne of God, and have the appearance of fiery, flying dragons flew through the air and joined the frenzy above. Creatures that looked like wheels within a wheel and covered with eyes followed the cherubim where they went. Other beings of various sizes, shapes and appearances joined the angel messenger's song:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"

It looked as if the sky had opened up and all of heaven had been emptied out for the purpose of making this special announcement.

Artists throughout the ages have tried to depict what this Close Encounter looked like. Often overlooked is the detail that the shepherds were extremely frightened by what they saw. We forget that when the Bible says there was a multitude of the heavenly host that comprised the angel choir that night, some of them don't look like our concept of an angel. These creatures are way more exotic and surreal than those produced by Hollywood.

The Bible says that after the angels left the shepherds collected themselves and decided to go and find this Savior born that night. The thought occurred to me. Did they do so because they didn't want to have to face this terrifying troop of heavenly messengers again? If a Cherub told you to, "Go!" do you really want to tell him that you didn't feel like it? Looks like they had something more important to consider than the red color of a coffee cup. Sorry, just had to add that in.

This past weekend the latest edition of Star Wars hit the theaters and was wildly successful. I must admit I haven't seen any of the movies and don't plan to break my streak. What occurred in the sky over Bethlehem that night would rival anything that CGI graphics and special effects can conceive. The angels' message has reached a greater audience than the most carefully crafted movie and has left individuals with more than temporary wonder and the aftertaste of hot buttered popcorn. Movies don't save the world but a baby born in a manger did and His arrival trumped Hollywood at its best.

Normally my blog postings are written months in advance, so to compose one on the fly is a break of tradition. I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Prosperous New Year. Thanks for sharing your time with me.


  1. Awesome! Great word! Great wordsmith! Thanks for sharing on the fly. Merry Christmas indeed!

  2. Awesome! Great word! Great wordsmith! Thanks for sharing on the fly. Merry Christmas indeed!

  3. Merry Christmas, dear one. What wonder-full images of that great night!