New International Version (NIV)
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Christmas is a wondrous and wonderful time, and what a dramatic story it is too:
- Angels making incredible announcements to a variety of characters,
- heavenly hosts appearing to shepherds in the middle of the night proclaiming the coming of peace on earth,
- the proof of which is a swaddled newborn in a manager in a stable in a humble hamlet of bread bakers.
Where do we in 2012 fit into such an extravagant and supernatural scene as this? And could we have been able as young teenagers, such as Mary and Joseph both may have been, to rise onto the world stage with such faith, righteousness, courage, and obedience? I am totally humbled by even the thought of such an historic encounter and call to faithful trust and obedience.
One aspect of this awesome, miraculous, transforming story of the birth of our beloved Sweet Jesus may provide an opening for us to enter the stage and play our part as a modern character in the birth narrative. Imagine ourselves tending our flock — whatever that may mean to us — by night, and to be suddenly overwhelmed by the brilliant presence of God. Perhaps you have camped on an open plain or mountaintop and seen a sky full of stars, a meteor shower, or a shining planet that caught your attention and made you contemplate the creative beauty and powerful presence of God. Perhaps you dreamt of or prayed fervently for peace on earth and goodwill among all, in specific places of war or even in your workplace, family circle, or own heart. Maybe just imagining such a world filled with such pregnant possibilities of love and grand hope, with angels actively at work, has actually gotten you through the dark places in your life, so that you know this story of long ago to be somehow real for you personally.
Today’s scripture passage particularly grabbed me when I pondered in my heart, (as Mary did), what it would mean for me to be fully awake to seeing with Kingdom eyes the light of God’s love everywhere present, every day, in everyone. What if I were to hear with spirit ears, as did the shepherds that holy night, God’s voice and promise, and then to trust these signs and wonders to the point of following them to their very source, followed by living life full of wonder, praise, and proclamation of the Good News just received.
Prayer: Oh God, give us each the Shepherds’ humble, attentive attunement to your ongoing magnificent light, and signs and wonders even in these times. Embolden us with a servant shepherd’s willingness to follow your beckoning, even with blind faith in the middle of the night, to the very birthplace of love and grace. Let us be fed by the bread of life your Son represents, which nourishes our spirit so that we can “Feed your Sheep,” as you have commanded us to do to your honor and for your glory. Amen