Christmas is a time of joy. Everyone knows that. Whether because Santa is coming, gifts are being exchanged, or loved ones are uniting, Christmas is generally known for being a time of cheer. For a moment, amidst all those lovely Christmas festivities, I’d like to take a moment to examine the joy that was felt that first Christmas.
The Nameless Shepherds: Humble as Pie
Two thousand years ago, a bunch of shepherds were chilling on a hillside with their sheep––nobody special doing nothing of note––when suddenly angelic glory breaks out around them.
“I bring you tidings of great joy that will be for all people.”
– Luke 2:10 (angel, to the shepherds)
Cowering in fear, they must have been greatly perplexed at first. What is happening? And why is it happening to us? Zechariah, a priest, was thrown by his angelic visitation. How much more these shepherds?
How often do we question God’s encounters of us simply because we feel unqualified? Yet the shepherds didn’t let that stall them for long. After the angel (and the glorious heavenly choir that joined him) left, they decided to go and find the baby God had told them about. They went. And they found Jesus.
They found him lying in a manger in Bethlehem, just as the angel had said. And then they told everyone what they had seen and heard.
It strikes me that the shepherds only knew a very small piece of the puzzle. They knew about a birth. A beginning. The fulfillment of a great promise, but something largely unknown. They didn’t know that Jesus was God Himself constrained to our fragile form. I highly doubt they understood all that.
But what they knew and heard, they shared. That’s what joy does, it overflows.
The shepherds only encountered a small slice of God’s glory: Jesus as a baby, unable to speak, unable to do much of anything. Yet that encounter changed them. I assume they went back to their sheep after this, but I can’t imagine they ever saw themselves the same again. I imagine their identity, their purpose, their frame of reference for life shifted permanently.
But maybe they forgot.
This Christmas, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on God’s faithfulness. Let yourself remember the moments of divine encounter that have gotten lost amidst the shuffle. Remember and rejoice. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and the story isn’t over yet.
“I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
John 16:22 (Jesus speaking to his disciples)