Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth

It was a dark night in Bethlehem.

This small obscure town, once held in appreciation as the birthplace of the high King David, had a lace of tension in its silence. Over 600 years had passed since Bethlehem had enjoyed independence and more since the town had seen any King rule it well. What these neighbor to Jerusalem had seen was it’s own failure—the Prophets made sure they knew of that—and the consequences of their ancestors’ unfaithfulness: wicked leadership, exile, the tearing apart of families, sword, famine, pestilence and the loss of thousands of loved ones and fellow jews. But there were rumors beginning to spread that the other side of what the prophets preached was drawing near:

Over 600 years had passed since Bethlehem had enjoyed independence and more since the town had seen any King rule it well. What these neighbor to Jerusalem had seen was its own failure—the Prophets made sure they knew of that—and the consequences of their ancestors’ unfaithfulness: wicked leadership, exile, the tearing apart of families, sword, famine, pestilence and the loss of thousands of loved ones and fellow jews. But there were rumors beginning to spread that the other side of what the prophets preached was drawing near:

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.”

(Micah 5:2-5 ESV)

In 6 BC, Judean families were ordered to return to their ancestors’ land for a Census, and they were given yet another reminder that they were subject to the whims of their pagan rulers, who had a reputation for not only ruling with an iron fist, but with armies of soldiers that used rape, theft, mockery, and crucifixion to assert their power. But, there was something ancient in the air. Bethlehem was soon occupied by not just anyone, but dozens of families whose ancestry was there—including those from David’s line. The houses were packed, family memories were being shared, and the inns were packed with average, middle-class couples, parents, and children. There was both a reminder of the tension they now found themselves in, and their heritage—with its glimpses of a coming future. But where was that future… Yet another pagan nation was enjoying sovereignty over Israel… Where was Messiah? When would he arrive? Who would be the first to know? How would they know?  But the townspeople were not the only audience questioning the future that night. All of Heaven had no doubt been in awe at what the King was doing. Gabriel, courageous as he is, had been sent to Nazareth just nine months earlier, to announce to a dirt-poor 14-year-old girl that the Spirit of Yahweh was going to conceive a child in her womb, would was God incarnate.

The houses were packed, family memories were being shared, and the inns were full with average, middle-class couples, parents, and children. There was both a reminder of the tension they now found themselves in, and their heritage—with its glimpses of a coming future. But where was that future… Yet another pagan nation was enjoying sovereignty over Israel… Where was Messiah? When would he arrive? Who would be the first to know? How would they know?  But the townspeople were not the only audience questioning the future that night. All of Heaven had no doubt been in awe at what the King was doing. Gabriel, courageous as he is, had been sent to Nazareth just nine months earlier, to announce to a dirt-poor 14-year-old girl that the Spirit of Yahweh was going to conceive a child in her womb, who was God, incarnate.

Not only would Gabriel have to announce the news, but he would have to try and understand that CREATOR GOD, GOD THE SON was now a cell in a woman’s body.  

Think about that again…

 GOD NOT ONLY BECAME A BABY, BUT, BEFORE THAT, A SINGLE CELL….

HOW?!

Gabriel watched his Master become lower than him.. if angels can weep…

Nine months later, the night has come Mary and Joseph rush into David’s city exhausted, yet panicked. Joseph’s Sandals are torn to shreds, his feet numb with pain, with Mary’s contractions getting worse by the minute.

They find that their Nazarene faces aren’t welcome in the inn, but they spot a manger out back. Just a couple miles outside of the city, the Heaven Singers choir is getting ready for the Christmas Concert of their eternity. These servants of God’s purposes, these worshippers of God’s glory, cleared their celestial throats to sing the loudest Gloria they could. They are ready to explode in even more awe, wonder, joy than they remember having when God created the world. They have been waiting for this moment since time before time — the second they get word that the Boy is born, the celebration begins.

The first angel steps out from the realm of glory and onto the stage. His audience? Shepherds. Smelly, sketchy sheep men.  Does he care? Not at all, they knew this in advance and are so glad to see the crew. A bit of heaven leaks out with him, and the Glory of the Lord surrounds and flashes around the shepherds, coming out like a thousand fog machines and bursts of lightning — but this is a show neither Hillsong nor nature can match.

As the sheep wake from sleep only to faint and the shepherds wet themselves, waiting for fire to fall on them, the soloist shares the news with his new, terrified friends— news that he can only dream of understanding and experiencing as they will (see 1 Peter 1:12). “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:11-12 The rest of the singers can’t keep it in anymore and, probably a few seconds too early, the curtains of the Judean sky fly open over the trembling shepherds, practically blinding them, and millions of angels belt out in unison: “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!!! AND ON EARTH PEACE AMONG THOSE WITH WHOM HE IS PLEASED!!! GLORY IN THE HIGHEST – Luke 2:14

All the sheep come to and stare blindly at the heavenly creatures, and then

they faint, again. This probably went on several times through the chorus, probably with the shepherds too.

And suddenly the curtains shut, and the shepherds were left in a daze at what they just heard and saw.

But it was true! What the Angels said was all true! … Both angels and men anticipated his coming, Bethlehem and Heaven both. But the question for us is, Will man rejoice as the angels did? We who are the recipients of this news, (Dare I say it) Ought to have a louder song than heaven’s choirs. After all, as I referenced earlier, Peter writes of the gospel in this line of thinking: “…who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, *things into which angels LONG to look.” – 1 Peter 1:12

They can only long to catch a glimpse; they can’t experience it or know it truly. That night they were simply messengers of the news—yet it’s not even their news to experience or know intimately. It’s ours. Jesus did not come for them. He came for us. And the sign of his coming? He would be the baby in rags. In a manger… a feeding trough… a place a baby should never have to sleep in. But this is God. And God is big, right? Yet he had become smaller than a pinhead. as a couple cells inside Mary. Then a fragile fetus- the God who erupts volcanoes and holds the reigns on hurricanes, too sensitive to face the outside world. Then a baby – brought into the world he created through the labor pains he cursed Eve with because of her sin.

But, Mary’s pain was small compared to the Jesus’ death by a broken heart on the cross, or the Father’s grief. And Bethlehem’s sorrow over a lost legacy by their own sin, and the hands of their enemies—not to mention the loss that would soon come at the sword of Herod’s men just a couple years later—was nothing compared to the pain Jesus would suffer as his Enemy mustered up all the evil he had planted into the world and aimed it against him. And of course, even the Father would pour out billions of hells’ worth of wrath on his son.

Though angels cannot understand it, part of me wonders if we really can either. But, regardless of how shallow our minds are, Like the Angels, We can rejoice in that which we do not understand entirely, but long to know more. And unlike the Angels, we can learn to welcome the Savior into our lives in a fresh way this Advent season, and experience this inexpressible gift all over again As we pray and put our full weight on the Son who has,  is, and will save us forevermore. May our songs be loud and our hearts be haunted by the God who has made his home with us this Christmas. He will be our peace wherever we are this holiday.

Glory in the Highest!

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s