In the famous Christmas scriptures, there is always a bright light. What is that and why is that?
I’m glad you asked! It’s called “the glory,” as in “the glory of God,” and it surrounds the places (or people) on the earth where God comes down for a visit. Many glory-events are documented throughout the Bible, in both old and new testaments. As far as we understand it, since the details are not explicitly lined out in scripture, this light is the atmosphere of heaven affecting earth when heaven intersects our realm.
Let us review some biblical glory sightings:
“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened” (Luke 2:8, 9, NASB.) The word “glory” there means “doxa” in the Greek; a powerful, describing-word for “splendor” or “brightness.”
We see this same, heavenly light appearing years later in a very different setting: “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made to God intensely by the church. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near Peter, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands” (Acts 12:5-7.) The angel and the light appeared at the same time. This could point to the idea that when a portal, or door, is opened between this world and God’s heavenly realm, it is a literal crack in the atmosphere where heaven’s light pours in, along with a holy being, in this case.
Let’s go even further back into human history where this glory-light appeared to millions of people at once: “Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel, the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top” (Exodus 24:15-17.) What did the Hebrew people see? A bright light described as a consuming fire settling on the mountain top where their fearless leader, Moses, stood before God.
There are countless glory sightings documented in scripture, with only a few of them being attached to the story of Christ’s birth. We may even speculate that the blindness of the Apostle Paul on the Road to Damascus was due to intense exposure to the glory of heaven when Jesus came to pay him a visit in person.
These select accounts help us answer the “why” question fairly well: Why do God-encounters come with a bright light? Because heaven’s atmosphere, according to Revelation chapter twenty-one, is lit up like a Christmas tree, pardon the example, with the “Lamp of the Lamb.” In other words, heaven’s world, where God is enthroned, literally pulsates with the glory of his holiness. He is the source of all power, after all. Anything which comes in contact with any facet of heaven reflects Jesus’ splendor like a moon.
Once we answer the “what is it” and “why is it” questions, our natural curiosity becomes, “what does it do?” In biblical examples, the glory of God is a chain-breaker as referenced to Peter’s prison predicament; it sets people free of their chains and prisons when they are exposed to it. God’s glory also burns off sin with cleansing power; the Apostle Paul’s scorched vision became his repentance and deliverance from a criminal lifestyle. The glory of God, while it tends to temporarily paralyze those who witness it, also protects: the pillar of fire stood in the way of the Egyptian warriors who sought to slaughter God’s people in the desert (Exodus 14.)
Let us rejoice that the glory of the Lord came down to us at Christmas time! “Arise, shine; for our light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah60:1.)
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