40 days after the resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. His ascension is recorded in Mark, Luke and the book of Acts. It took place on a mountain top in the vicinity of Bethany according to Luke 24:50-51 “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” Mark also adds in Jesus’ destination after His ascension, Mark 16:19 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” In the book of Acts, Luke, the author, gives us a more complete picture of this event. Acts 1:9-11 “And after He said these things, He was caught up as they looked on, and a cloud took Him up out of their sight. 10 While they were looking intently into the sky as He was going, two men in white clothing suddenly stood beside them, 11 who said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This [same] Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will return in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
The disciples who were focused on where Jesus went and the angels assured them that Jesus will return in the same way He left. Jesus had lovingly told them that He would send a helper to guide and empower them in His absence. Acts 1:7-8 “He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” Jesus wanted His followers to be about telling others of the kingdom and the good news of the salvation and forgiveness available to each one though Jesus. The promised Holy Spirit would come upon them in just 10 days at Pentecost and then the truth of Christ and His work would revolutionize the world!
Are you anticipating the return of Christ? Be encouraged with these words from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Are you telling others about your Savior as you wait? Be encouraged by Peter’s words: 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” Be ready to tell others of your HOPE in Jesus!
The third Sunday of Advent we light the candle of peace in our wreath. The story of the angelic beings appearing to the shepherds proclaims the birth of the Christ child and peace to the world. The angel of the Lord, identified as Gabriel in Luke 1:11, announced the Savior’s coming birth to Mary, Joseph and Zechariah. Now he comes with a host of angelic beings, shining gloriously before a group of shepherds and speaks words of hope and peace about the Savior who has just arrived. Luke 2:8-14 “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
How has God interrupted your life this year? Are you hearing a message of peace and hope? Do you feel His presence when you are afraid? The shepherds were going about their daily lives and then God intervened. I like to call this A GOD moment. In the midst of their ordinary day’s activities, God showed Himself real and powerfully in their midst. The shepherds were given directions to go and seek out this child. They were told where they would find Him, lying in a manger, and what He would look like, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. The angel wanted there to be no mistake so they would know for sure they had found the Christ child, the Savior. Their response was obedience as they quickly went to find the child.
What is your response to the God moments in your life? Do you take advantage of them and pack them away for future encouragement? Do you share them with others to encourage their faith? As you ponder the shepherds and this revelation to them from God, recall your own God moments. Let the memories remind you of the joy and hope you have in Jesus and of His tender loving care. Let the shepherd’s encounter and your memories lead you to worship. God is worthy of all our praise!
In Luke 2:8-14 angels from heaven appear to humble shepherds out tending their flocks.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
I cannot even imagine the awe and wonder that must have filled the shepherds. Seeing glorious heavenly beings, shining before them praising God and giving them the good news of the birth of their long awaited Savior, Messiah and Lord. They were even told where this glorious event took place, in Bethlehem. As Luke describes the scene he said the ‘glory of the Lord’ surrounded them. I can well imagine their fear at seeing such a radiant sight, but again the angels told them not to fear. God wanted them to rejoice at this glorious announcement not be overcome with fear.
Where do you see God in this event? In the heavenly angels appearing, the fact that the angelic beings spoke to the human shepherds, that the timing was perfect in announcing the birth of the Savior, that the angels knew exactly where Jesus was born and the angels radiated God’s glory around them. Truly it was a miraculous event that showed God’s glory. God’s glory is the total of all God’s attributes. God displayed His glory in the beauty and wisdom of His creation. Throughout history, God has revealed His glory to His people through His power, mercy, grace, judgement, holiness, love and every other attribute. In the Old Testament we see His glory symbolically represented by fire in a cloud. His glorious presence came to dwell in the Tabernacle and then the Temple as God came to dwell among His people. The Lord Jesus Christ reveals God’s glory completely. The angels were announcing the arrival of God’s glory in human form, His Son, Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 tells us “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Isaiah had a vision of the throne room of God in Isaiah 6:3 he describes the scene, “And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Ezekiel also recounted his vision of heaven in Ezekiel 3:12 “Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the Lord rose from the place where it was standing.” God is always surrounded by His glory and radiant power. Amazingly for us, in Jesus is revealed the fullness of God’s glory and we can know Him and experience His glory in our lives.
Knowing God is glorious scripture tells us that we can see His glory in His creation. Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Knowing that Jesus reflects God’s glory means that having Jesus’ Holy Spirit indwelling us gives us the power to bring glory to God by doing His work. Hebrews 13:21 “ equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
May you glimpse God’s glory in nature and in the working of Christ in your life.
As I have only a few days left in this month, I wanted to go back and pick up a few names of God I have not written about before. The Lord of hosts is a name of God referred to in the Old Testament and first appears in 1 Samuel 1:3. “Now this man (Elkanah) used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.” This is the beginning of the story of Hannah, Elkanah’s wife who had no children. They went to Shiloh yearly to worship where the sanctuary to the Lord was erected. It is a tender story that shows her dedication to the Lord, and how God,the Lord of hosts, met her greatest desire.
So why this name for God? Lord of hosts would suggest a realization by the people of Israel that God commanded many angelic beings and is similar to the reference to God as the God of Heaven’s armies. Jeremiah 15:16 NLT Lord of hosts acknowledges that God is Almighty, powerful and can command and use a host of beings to aid His children. I particularly love the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6:15-17. The king was after Elisha as he had been giving information to enemy as the Lord had directed him. He and his servant had fled into the countryside to escape the king. “When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. 16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!”17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” The servant was amazed at the army the Lord had sent to protect his servant Elisha. God’s forces were present but unseen until God opened the servant’s eyes.
David repeatedly referred to God as the Lord of hosts in the Psalms. Psalm 24:10 Who is this King of glory?The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah , Psalm 84:12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! Isaiah records this phrase in his vision of God’s throne room. The angelic beings were speaking, “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Isaiah 6:3
I love this name of God as it shows me that God is always more than I can ever imagine. He has the heaven’s and the earth at His command. His resources far exceed our needs. That is why I can claim His promise to me in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” I can depend upon Him to be with me and carry me in whatever circumstances I find myself. Truly, He is the Lord of hosts the one who commands Heaven’s Armies and the whole earth is filled with His glory!
One of the most touching post-resurrection appearances of Jesus was when He appeared to Mary in the garden. It is recounted in John 20:14-18. She was at the tomb, had seen the angels and heard them say that Jesus was not there but risen. However, she was so overcome with grief it had yet to truly register with her brain. They (the angels) said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
This scene touches me as it only took Jesus saying her name for her to recognize Him. In John 10:27 Jesus told the disciples that the ones who know Him will recognize His voice and follow Him ” My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Mary knew immediately that it was her Lord saying her name. She was instantly comforted and wanted to touch Him. He cautioned her not to touch him, but to go and tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord! Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Mary needed to have the Savior’s touch. He touched her with His voice and He gave her the reassurance that all would be well. He confirmed he was risen, was the Messiah and that He was alive. He showed her that there was eternal Hope in Him! She got all of that from Jesus saying her name. What do you need Jesus to say to you today? Do you need Him to call you by name, give you a word of encouragement, a word of guidance, or simply a word of Hope? He can say and do it all- if you just ask Him. Seek Him and He will be found, today!
Luke 2:10-14 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, good will toward men!” NKJV
This glorious portion of scripture is very poetic and eloquent in the New King James version. The angel proclaimed that good news for all mankind had come in the form of a babe sent from God. He would save us from our sins and it will mean good will towards all men. His coming would bring peace. Does Jesus bring those things to you today? Are you assured of His love and salvation? Remember Ephesians 1:13-14 “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” The Holy Spirit living inside us is the guarantee that we belong to Jesus. We are sealed eternally and are His. Be assured today of the hope that is within you and praise Him for coming to save us.
Listen to this glorious chorus and revel in the majesty of that night and the wonder of the shepherds.