Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; to you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord. Isaiah 60: 1-6
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 2-10
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32
Another favorite passage of mine is featured on today’s post. I used these first few verses from Isaiah 60 on my Christmas cards a few years ago because it’s so beautiful for describing Advent. You’ll notice right away that it’s similar to the Isaiah 9 passage from yesterday. This prophecy describes in more detail the continuing theme of light shining in the darkness. These words from Isaiah were meant for the nation of Israel as a comfort that although they were in dark times, God had not forgotten them. Large portions of Isaiah are devoted to promises of future glory for Israel. We read today that nations will flock to Israel to rejoice in the light that shines there. Israel will be filled with joy as they fulfill their role of displaying the glory of God to the world. Isaiah speaks of herds of camels ridden by visitors bringing precious gifts of gold and incense to worship the God of Israel. Doesn’t this sound like a familiar part of the Nativity narrative?
In truth I don’t know whether the Isaiah passage directly hearkens to the visit the Magi make to the Christ Child, and I’ve never heard anyone make that connection before, but the similarities are striking and they fit together. The stories of the Magi are shrouded in mystery, and perhaps for this reason they are one of my favorite aspect of Nativity. Through the centuries they have captured our imagination. All we really know of them is that they saw God’s light and pursued it. They were learned men from a culture distinct from the Jews, but they were familiar with their promises. It is most likely that they came into contact with Jewish writings brought to their country when the Jews were scattered throughout Gentile kingdoms as prisoners of war. The two New Testament passages today give the accounts of the only people who were looking for the Messiah. Many knew about the promise, but only a few were actively engaged in seeking its reality. Many saw the light of God from the star, but only a few came near enough to feel its glory rays. These Gentiles in a foreign land were among those who pursued the light God provided and met with God Himself. They saw the glory of God behind human eyes, in tiny hands and feet, and they fell down in worship. That is the only response when we see the glory and light of God – overwhelmed gratefulness and awe at God’s character and love for us.
Simeon is the other individual we are told was waiting and actively looking for the coming Messiah. An aging man, he spent his days at the temple awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. When he sees the infant Jesus with his mother, he holds the child in his arms and offers worship and a prophecy of his own. This child has been given in the sight of all nations. He will be the light of the world to reveal God’s glory to all the nations, and He will be a special glory to Israel. In the Jewish culture, the phrase “glory of God” was synonymous with His presence. God’s glory resided in the temple as a physical manifestation of His dwelling. So when Simeon describes Jesus as the glory of Israel, it is a way of saying that God has revealed His presence to the nations.
The glory of God is an integral part of all three of these Scriptures. God’s glory refers to His character and personhood. “Glory” is defined as high renown or honor, magnificence, and great beauty. Jesus is the living revelation of God’s glory; He perfectly radiates every attribute that makes God worthy and beautiful. But God’s glory is also an invitation to worship Him. “Glory” carries with it a response; it holds the idea of worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving. The revelation of God’s glory is a call to see God for who He is and fall at His feet with a heart of praise and thanksgiving. Arise and come to the stable, for the glory of God has risen upon you and your Light has come.
Blessings to you,