Thursday, December 16, 2010

Celestial Celebration

On the evening of March 12, 2009, my wife and two dozen other Holy Land tourists arrived in Jerusalem by bus from Ben Gurion Airport. Before arriving at our hotel, tour host Jimmy DeYoung instructed our driver to pull in to an elevated parking area. Most of our group members carefully descended a gravel path to a vantage point where we could overlook the distant lights of Bethlehem. We were told a nearby hillside may have been the home of “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Luke 2:8 NIV). We sang “Joy to the World” under sparkling starlight.

Scripture does not tell us if the praise offered by the “great company of the heavenly host” was heard only by the shepherds or by all the residents of the surrounding countryside. Perhaps the arrival of God incarnate was witnessed only by the humble shepherds. In retrospect, our tour group, had we been present on that miraculous night long ago, could have heard the celestial praise celebration of Christ’s first advent from that Jerusalem hillside venue. Short of a miracle multiplying the range of sights and sounds and extending them to the entire civilized world of that era, Jesus’ angelic birth celebration was a local event.

Revelation 1:7 speaks of Christ’s Second Advent: “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…” This second appearance contrasts sharply with the first. Will the miracle “every eye will see him” be divinely transcendent? Or will God the Father use the remarkable technology He has enabled man to develop the past two centuries--especially in the last few decades? The answer is known only to God. But our sense of wonder at the marvels of scientific discovery sparks our imagination.

Digital electromagnetic signals from satellites orbiting far outside our atmosphere can now be harnessed to provide virtually instant pictures and sounds from any event any place in the world. We could be forgiven if we loosely use the term “miracle” to describe technological achievements not even imagined by our grandparents.

There is an evident irony as we consider the First Advent of Jesus in Bethlehem so long ago. The heavenly host heralded Jesus’ arrival from “outer space”--heaven’s glory. Orbiting satellite signals which deliver joyous Christmas programming also arrive from “space,” beaming their message of worship and honor to the Son of God. Of course, the reality of the Incarnation is, by far, the greater miracle.