As the Christmas season bustles in with music, tastes, and twinkle we often get giddy with anticipation thinking about the glorious event of God entering into our world – heaven intersecting with earth in the most tangible way imaginable. God had been engaging mankind since creation, but he was always headed to this point – to enter mankind for the sake of absolute redemption! What must it be like to be in the exact place where it happened?!
This morning I was reminded of a photo I took just after sunrise in the Judean hills just outside of Bethlehem, and it struck me which part of the Christmas story most resonates with me since I have lived in the Holy Land – where it all happened so poignantly over 2,000 years ago.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Luke 2:8
This verse is squished between Mary and Joseph’s journey of obedience and the birth of Jesus… and the host of angels appearing to the shepherds and proclaiming the Messiah. I mean, Holy Christmas, that’s a lot to take in for one chapter! But this one little verse, that seems more like a prelude at first glance, is quite significant.
The birth had already occurred – the Messiah had come! The shepherds were still tending their flocks at night… They had no idea what had happened until it was proclaimed. For the most part, that’s why this verse resonates with me so much. You see, there is no Christmas bustle in the Holy Land to prime our senses for the celebration of his incarnation. It’s an empty season void of anything spectacular. It’s as though it’s the same world that existed here 2,000 years ago – a world that had no idea what was about to happen.
Right now I identify with the experience of the shepherds. They tended the flocks. We’ve been given a “flock” of responsibilities that don’t always seem to suit each other. Doing our job right when we lived there was very much like watching over a flock on the hills. We didn’t go to the sheep pen every day; rather we were always traversing uneven ground. Sometimes the sheep moved together as one, sometimes they wandered apart, and sometimes they simply stopped and grazed and we just waited; being watchful, but waiting nonetheless.
I’m not complaining about the waiting. After all, there was quite a famous shepherd who really understood God’s heart because of all that time tending flocks. I’m simply saying that is where we were.
The shepherds, in Luke 2:8, kept watch over their flocks at night. As a creative soul, I love the peaceful landscapes captured on Christmas cards that invite us into a holy moment of quiet worship. Praise the Lord that the night can be that way! The shepherds perhaps had a different experience. They were living in the fields. They were acquainted with the unique perils of the night. The night in the Holy Land is cold, and the ground is rocky and uncomfortable. The predators lurk at night and eyes grow weary from the strain of always watching in conditions where dangers are more difficult to see. All of these factors make the night very long indeed, for your responsibilities to the flock don’t diminish; but it does take significantly more energy to accomplish them.
You’ve noticed that, haven’t you? Think of a season in your life where it felt like night. The world around you rotated on its axis without a care, the day coming and going perfectly on schedule, but your world stopped and got stuck desperately in the night. Your life moved in parallel to life’s demands and you functioned, but you functioned with all the difficulty of being perpetually in the night.
To the shepherds’ credit, they lived like that; without even the anticipation of knowing something (even as truly extraordinary as it was) was about to happen to them.
And, friends, that is how we can live with hope and anticipation in the night without solid information of what is coming next. Because we know that something is coming and we can wait for the glorious proclamation when it does come. And until then, we care for what God has entrusted to us. Just like my photo, we may work in the night, but we live just after sunrise. We live in the life-giving reality of the proclamation of the Messiah! We just don’t know what the day will bring…
So, even though it may now be night for you, allow the proclamation to bring you hope (and even anticipation) for what will come.
- Posted by hellobabs
- On December 12, 2018
- 0 Comment