Annunciation to the Shepherds (1649) – Nicolaes Berchem (Public Domain)

Imagine with me for a moment….


It’s late… you are tired after a long day of hard work. The cool night breeze blows against your hair. You can still feel the weight of your body on the heels of your feet even though you are laying down. The sound of your colleague, who is corralling the last of the flock nearby, reverberates through the air and the smell of livestock lay forever in your nose. 

You desire sleep…

You desire sleep but you still have work to do. Even though the day is done, the flock is fed and watered, there is still the present danger of predators who wish to do your flock harm. That burden weighs on you and you keep one eye open. Your other eye closes, seeming to all who pass that you are peacefully at rest.

But you’re not at rest…

You mind is racing. Your world is in a constant state of flux. Your country has gone through unprecedented times. Your government has changed out time and time again. Foreign powers have come and conquered your lands and have instilled new leaders. Murder, corruption, and injustice plague your people. Even the Temple has gotten caught up in the corruption.

Who can you trust? 

You have lost faith in your leaders. You have lost faith in the Temple. But what can you do? You are just a lowly shepherd. You have no power, no authority. No one asks for your opinion and even if they did, it probably wouldn’t matter. You just have to keep going.

You take a deep breath. The air feels heavy entering your lungs, but you know it’s not the air, it’s the weight of the world on you.

FLASH

A bright light flashes, brighter than anything you have ever seen before. You are startled. You start to wonder what has happened. Have you lost your sight? Has your life ended? What is going on! You start to see what appears to be a person coming into focus. This is not like any type of person you have ever seen before and you recognize this is not of this world.

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds (1834) – Thomas Cole (Public Domain)

It speaks…

The being speaks to you, saying: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…” Your senses are overloaded as the sounds of a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God fills the air. You cannot believe what is happening right now, your heart is racing, and then…

They are gone.

You look at your colleagues, whose facial expressions tell you that you were not imagining things. You all immediately agree that you must go and see what is going on. You head to Bethlehem and find a baby lying in a manger, exactly as the heavenly being described. 

L’adoration des bergers (circa 1645) – Georges de La Tour (Public Domain)

You are overwhelmed.

You head back home, back to your flock, back to your work. You find that you heart is both light and overflowing at the same time. Your heart is light because the burdens of your world no longer seem so heavy. You realize that your God has heard your prayers, He has heard your cry, and He is doing something. You don’t fully yet understand what that is, but you have met Him, the solution and the savior. You have met Him and you know that everything is going to be alright. 

Your heart overflows.

Your heart overflows with Joy. Joy because of the love of God. Joy because He sent you His Word, and because you have met the savior of the world. Joy because you know that no matter what else is going on in the world… no matter the unprecedented times, no matter the turbulent leadership, no matter the corruption or injustice, you know that God cares about what you are going through, and God is working.

You lay down, and you find peace.

Sleeping Girl in a Landscape (17th Century) – Bernhard Keil (Public Domain)

When I read the Christmas story I marvel at God’s work. I focus on His coordination of events, His messages, the core narrative surrounding Mary, Joseph and Jesus. I read about how God announced Jesus’s birth to the Shepherds and applaud that He made His declaration not to kings or priests, but to the humble in society. This is the way the story is written and it is amazing.

I do often wonder about the things not captured in scripture. What did the story look like through the eyes of some of the people who lived it? What were they thinking? How did they feel? Granted, this is not critical to the message of the Gospel (else, God would have recorded it in His word), but none the less, I like to try and imagine what it might have looked or felt like to be there, with Jesus. 

Luke 2: 8-20 captures the story of the Shepherds at the time of Jesus’s birth. The narrative records their encounter with the Angel, their meeting baby Jesus, and their joy afterwards. From extra-Biblical sources we know that this time was a very turbulent political period in Israel’s history. Tensions were high even among the religious leaders. Now did all of this really weigh on the minds and hearts of the shepherds? I have no idea…but for those of us today who are coming out of unprecedented times; times where trust may be lacking and injustice seems too common, I think we can still find Hope, Joy and Peace. Hope, Joy and Peace in knowing that even in the midst of chaotic times, God is working; He hears us, He cares. He has also sent us a savior, someone we know we can trust, someone we can meet in His word and have a relationship with, Jesus. 

I pray that this Christmas, your heart may overflow with Joy, and that you may have hope and find peace in our savior. 

Merry Christmas!


Did you miss last year’s message? Listen to your fellow CCEM members read the Christmas story as found in Luke in our 2020 Christmas Video!

https://vimeo.com/showcase/8195413/video/487951508

Did you miss this year’s Christmas party?

Check out this article containing some wonderful photos of the event. We hope that you can join us next year!