Christmas is probably my favorite time of the year. In fact I like it so much I try to make it last as long as possible beginning the weekend before Thanksgiving. My tree, garland, and Nativity are all up…that’s literally all I decorate with but I think it’s plenty. While it is a time of celebrating and parties, ironically it can also be a dark and depressing time for many. Perhaps it’s the anniversary of a loved one’s death. Or people look back and think of all the unmet goals from the previous year. Still others, Christmas accentuates the troubles and valleys they have already been experiencing. Their lives, their families don’t quite match up with the Christmas specials of relatives wearing matching sweaters in front of the fireplace singing carols.
If we look back, the setting for Christ’s birth in Luke 2 wasn’t a joyous time either. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep” (v. 28). Roman rule, cruelty, enslavement…religious leaders imposing unbearable spiritual burdens…and the despondency over feeling abandoned by the One True God. It wasn’t just physical darkness but emotional and spiritual as well.
A NEW HOPE
It may have been easy to give in to defeat. After facing so many disappointments, it would be easy to just simply give up thinking there is no more hope. But God heard his people’s cries and was getting ready to honor His promise of redemption. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (v.10). Not only is God wanting to wipe away all fear and doubt, He’s promising a change for everyone…regardless of race, abilities/disabilities, intelligence, background, life circumstances, etc. It wasn’t about Roman superiority or Pharisaical elitism. God was getting ready to change the rules and give everyone equal access.
A NEW RELATIONSHIP
Then something happened that they hadn’t experienced in a long time. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (v. 13). God appeared to them right where they were at in the middle of the darkness. He didn’t send a prophet or messenger, didn’t call out from the cosmos. But He joined them in their struggle, appearing in the field and appearing to them in the flesh. A reminder of His Name Immanuel: God with us.
A NEW PASSION
This encounter struck a nerve and caused them to pursue Jesus. “So they hurried off and found…the baby, who was lying in the manger” (v. 16). They ran to Jesus, leaving behind their “worldly concerns” to be with the One Who would lead them out of the real darkness.
A NEW DIRECTION
But this is key: they didn’t keep it to themselves. “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (v. 17).They ran to tell others. It was contagious, they couldn’t contain the joy. They couldn’t help but tell others about what God had done. This is a dangerous moment. Emotional release, the altar call experience, the good cry. The Sunday morning response. But what about Monday? Every day life after the touching moment?
A NEW LIFE
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (v. 20). They went back to where they were, but were able to praise God in the midst of their circumstances and to face every day challenges. Despite their conditions and helplessness, they experienced something that evening that got them through. They had an encounter with God in a very real way. Despite the darkness, they were aware…His Presence brings fullness of joy, peace, love, comfort, security, encouragement, assurance, and salvation. Those are things the world, the enemy, and circumstances…can never take away from us.