Holy Magnificance

Seeing-Shepherds-Daniel-BonnellThe announcement of the coming of Christ-child didn’t only come to Mary. It also came to shepherds who were watching over their flocks that night. Oh, what a night that must have been, and I love how this painting portrays it.

As I look closely at the multitude of angels, I can’t pick out a single one, yet I know that is what they are. You can almost hear the flutter of their wings as they stretch across the night sky, cutting through the darkness with a radiant arc. The stars swirl above them in a cobalt blue sky and the burnt sienna hills of Judea swirl below.

But what I love most are the shepherds, with their faces lifted, arms outstretched. It’s like they are soaking it all in. Scripture tells us that the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified, but the angel said, “Don’t be afraid.” They must have heeded the angel’s words and fear has been replaced with awe and praise.

When I was in seminary, I was tutored in Greek by a retired professor who, with his long white beard and hair and deep voice, reminded me of God himself. In one session, we were going over this story in Greek. He got tears in his eyes as he told me how our English doesn’t quite capture the army of angels that appeared and the glory of that night. I’ll always remember this giant of a man—both in stature and in wisdom—being so moved by the account of the declaration of our Lord’s birth.

My prayer is that we are moved too. We’ve heard the story so many times, we tend to forget the significance of it. In the song, “O Holy Night,” I get teary-eyed every time I sing the line: “Fall on your knees.” This declaration of our Lord’s birth invites us to fall on our knees, to hear the angels’ song of praise. It invites us to lift our faces, for our redemption is passing by; to stretch our arms out wide to receive him. Let awe soak into your bones.

Being Human connection: This transcendent message of good news and great joy is not only for the shepherds but for you and me: “Glory to God in the highest.” Praise the Lord.

Question: I would love to hear from you. Is there a line or a song that gets you all emotional this time of year? Please share.

Featured Image: Daniel Bonnell, “Seeing Shepherds,” 2010, bonnellart.com


In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” -Luke 2:8-14