As the Christmas season approaches we begin to see images of mangers, wise men, and shepherds. We might have a vision in our head of snow on the ground and begin to think about Christmas’ past. We watch little children with a twinkle in their eyes anticipating the perfect gift. People are making travel plans to be with loved ones, menus are discussed, and the stores are full of shoppers. The pace of the final days till Christmas begins to get frantic. What does Christmas really look like? We find this in Luke chapter 2.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 8-12
Every December we await Christmas as we remember the coming of the baby Jesus into this world. The angel didn’t alert the wealthy or the noble but appeared to the shepherds out in the fields. The shepherd’s life was an onerous one of a subordinate position. The shepherd endured hardship, and even danger. He was exposed to the extremes of heat and cold, his food frequently consisted of what he could find in the field.
The Christmas holidays don’t always go as planned. I’m reminded of a story about a middle-class family that wanted to have their best Christmas ever. Each of the three children had their own ideas of a great Christmas. The oldest daughter had plans to spend Christmas Eve with her boyfriend while the youngest daughter wanted a big tree with lots of presents – all for her no doubt. The middle son didn’t want any part of Christmas. The wife generously bought presents for people they rarely communicated with and planned to deliver them on Christmas Eve.
As the story goes the dad got off work early on Christmas Eve and wanted to take the family up into the mountains to cut a tree just like his family did long ago. Of course the children protested vigorously because they had important plans but the dad won out and off they go. They keep driving higher up the mountain and the dad keeps telling them the perfect tree is just around the next bend but it begins to snow. The dad kept saying we are almost there but it really was a little beyond what he remembered. The mountain snow was coming down so fast they had to stop the car and now the roads were so slick with ice it was not safe to travel. Stranded and no one else around plus no way to call for help. The family could see a cabin off into the distance so they made their way to check it out. They discovered this was a summer cabin for hikers but there was still food and supplies in the cabinets. They were safe but not exactly the Christmas Eve everyone wanted. After a lot of angry talk and unhappy faces the dad told the son that they could go out and at least get a tree. To warm the cabin the mom started a fire in the fire place and began to warm some soup. The girls found some old magazines and tore the pages into strips to make a paper chain to decorate the tree.
After the tree was up and decorated and they finished their meal the mom asked everyone to recall one of their favorite Christmas memories. Everyone had a favorite time to share and after a while mom begin to read the Christmas story from the Bible. The family rarely worshiped together and certainly never outside of church. The mother read Luke 2:1-20. In part:
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
The family began to sing Silent Night.
Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
By some measures this family experienced a pretty special Christmas. Time to talk not interrupted by technology or with personal agendas. God puts us in special places at special times. What will your Christmas look like this year?