Christmas is different this year. Like many of you, I have missed the traditional activities that in years past, have been part of preparing for Christmas:
Gathering together to make wreaths and the magical moment of lighting the first candle on the first Sunday of Advent.
- Seeing the tree lights burn bright downtown–as local choirs and community join together to sing Christmas carols.
- Spending casual time with family and friends–exchanging hugs while greeting and again before saying farewell–who knew that something so simple as a hug would become but a distant memory?!!
I was feeling slightly “off” about what was missing, until I was reminded of the drama that surrounded the birth of Jesus. I was filled with awe as I read again about the faith of Mary, who embraced God’s Plan for her by telling the angel: “May it be for me as you have said.”* I was touched by Joseph’s decision to support Mary, taking her to be his wife while knowing the child she carried was not his own.
Yet it wasn’t. until I got to the part where some shepherds were visited by an actual angel (for real!), that I was realized what I had been missing . . . JOY!
What awakened that realization was putting myself in the place of some ordinary people who happened to be shepherds tending their sheep late at night:
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold,
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:
Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you.
He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths
and lying in a manger.”
That night, after being overcome by the light of the angel. the shepherds were entrusted with the most significant pronouncement made in all of human history! If you are willing, I invite you to join me in putting yourself in their place to savor some of the drama of that joy-filled night:
With the sudden appearance of the angel–their adrenalin no doubt coursing through their bodies–the angel told them not be afraid but to receive the exceedingly good news, that God’s promise of a Savior had been fulfilled that night! Of course, it didn’t end there! Luke goes on to describe how the shepherds were then serenaded by a whole host of angels, underscoring the drama of what God had done:
And suddenly there appeared with the angel
a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men
on whom His favor rests!”
What would you have thought as this amazing drama unfolded? How would you have responded when it was over, and you were suddenly surrounded by the cold black night and a flock of bleating sheep?
With their adrenaline still pumping and trying retain everything they had seen and heard, the shepherds raced into the little town of Bethlehem to confirm all that the angel described:
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby,
who was lying in the manger. After they had seen the Child,
they spread the message they had received about Him.
And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
Given the wondrous drama they had witnessed, it was only natural for the shepherds–overflowing with joy–to tell everyone they met about all that they has seen and heard the night Jesus was born
During this year, overtaken by the dangers of COVID, I am grateful that my HOPE in Christ, despite the very real challenges, has held me fast. Even so, as Christmas approaches and I REJOICE in the coming of God’s Son, suddenly that mysterious PEACE that passes all human understanding** has been fully restored. I share this, in the hope that you will join me in embracing the JOY of God’s exceedingly good Gift as His Peace carries us into the new year–Merry Christmas!
All to His Glory!