Main Hall at Angel Academy was rustling with thousands of young wings as students waited for the guest speaker who would bring the Christmastide Lecture. It was always a well-known Academy alum. The headmaster delivered a flowery introduction, praising the speaker for his service at Bethlehem and standing guard at the Empty Tomb. On and on he went. Finally, he motioned to the speaker. Nervously, the angel cleared his throat and then began.
Thank you, headmaster, for that gracious introduction. But really! All the glory should go to our God, not to his servants! Nevertheless, young angels, I have a great story to tell about His glory. I know you’ve all studied about it in your classes, but I want you to hear it from an eyewitness. I was there.
It began when I was a junior, away from the Academy on an internship with a Mentor Angel. Suddenly, my Mentor was summoned to travel by swift flight to a dark hillside just a mile south of Bethlehem, and I went along. The hillside was still, except for a few sheep moving about on the ground below us. Some shepherds were talking quietly. But when we got there, we all waited in the darkness, “glory off.” Someone was giving instructions. “Arrange yourselves in ranks of hundreds, shortest in front, tallest in the rear. And quietly! You don’t want to mess up what God has planned for the occasion.” Now Gabriel was brought out. Even in those days, he was famous because of his work with Daniel many centuries before. And then it began.
Gabriel went from “glory off” to “full glory” in a split second. The effect was stunning! He stood at full height, shining in all the Father’s glory — and the poor shepherds looked like they had been struck down. The official account read: “The glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.” Young angels, that’s an understatement. Those shepherds thought the end of the world had come! It took Gabriel several minutes to calm them down. You know, humans have an iris in their eyes that gets large in the dark. But when a bright light suddenly comes on, it can actually cause them pain. I think that’s what happened. We were all standing silently in the ranks, “glory off” for the moment, when Gabriel began to speak: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
At first, I really didn’t know what was going on. But then I realized what all the hubbub in heaven these last few weeks had been about. God’s Son was coming to earth. And not in all his regal splendor, but as a tiny human Child. My dear angels, he went through all the compression and rigors and indignity of human birth. God’s Son, mind you! And the manger part … you really need to understand! You’d expect God’s Son to come to the palace of a king. But, no, in all the Father’s wisdom, His Son was born as the humblest of the humble, not even in a house, but in a stable. You don’t find mangers in king’s houses; only in barns. I could see that the shepherds were puzzled too. But now it was our time. The conductor tapped his baton on a rock to get our attention, lifted his arms, and at the downstroke, tens of thousands of us went “full glory” all at once.
Instantly, the hillside was flooded with brilliance like thousands of arc lights. The hills rang as we sang at the top of our voices: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The words were simple, but the song went on for several minutes, the lines repeating as the melody carried the wonderful words of praise. Like a waterfall, it began high up. The sopranos would trill their lines, then the altos would join in. The tenors would pick it up, finally down to the great bass angel voices of heaven — all in glorious harmony.