By Greg Sharp
A pile of gifts under the tree are usually enough to make me lose my mind. I have vivid childhood memories of digging through the stacks of boxes looking for the packages marked “To: Gregory.” As our daily Advent calendar mouse bounced closer to the “25,” the anticipation of what was inside those boxes would be almost too much for this kid to bear.
Ask any of my siblings and they’ll tell you how I was always the first one awake on Christmas morning. It’s a bit of a family joke to ask if I made it until the sun comes up this year. What can I say? I get excited about gifts!
What can I say? I get excited about gifts!
When we meet the infamous shepherds in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, they are watching o’er their flocks by night, as shepherds are known to do. Just hanging out, doing shepherd stuff.
We are told that an angel of the Lord (so this is a high-level angel… not just some middle management angel) appears to them and says, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12
And as if that weren’t enough to get their attention, then a heavenly army of angels appears proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
This is quite the spectacle, isn’t it? If these shepherds were on the fence about God after meeting the first angel, the army of angels had to have sealed the deal, right? But the angels didn’t seal the deal, did they?
As I read through this story again this year, a few things jumped out at me. The first is that the shepherds don’t even hesitate. The text says they rush off to see this for themselves “with haste.” Yes, haste!
Now that is something I can relate to. These shepherds were just told they had a gift waiting (and how it was wrapped) and they rush downstairs to the tree to see it for themselves. They couldn’t contain their excitement. What can they say? They get excited about gifts!
What can they say? They get excited about gifts!
Another part of this story that caught my attention is that even with all the pomp that went into the production, how very little information the angels provide. The shepherds are told that a savior has been born. They are told where this savior is to be found and a couple defining details about the circumstances of said savior’s living arrangement, but they are not given a name or even a sex. “Just look for the baby in the feeding trough. Tell ’em Gabe sent you.”
Now this may seem to be a trifle of a detail, but what occurs to me is that the angel of the Lord and the heavenly host of backup singers surely had given these shepherds an experience that would have made believers out of most of us. We’re told that the shepherds were enveloped into the Glory of God where they stood. Who can imagine what that must have been like? Yet immediately, they ran with haste to meet this savior in the flesh to confirm what they just heard.
Frankly, if I am ever blessed with such an experience on this side of Heaven, and the host of angels simply wanted to talk about the weather, it’s safe to assume that the experience in itself would blow my mind. But the shepherds wanted to know all about this Christ. There was more to the story and the shepherds knew it.
There was more to the story and the shepherds knew it.
As we prepare for Christmas and the mouse closes in on “25,” we’ll surely encounter several glorious spectacles along the way, and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in it (if you’ll pardon the pun). Yet, even in the midst of the the aromas or carols or traditions of the season that warm our hearts and instantly bring us to a place of nostalgia and longing, we know there’s so much more to the story.
The promise of Christmas is an invitation into the presence of the Christ and an intimate relationship with your savior, Jesus. The glory of the season of preparation is but a foretaste of what is to come on Christmas morning when we meet the babe face to face.
One more part of the story needs to be told. After seeing this baby, just as they were promised, the shepherds returned “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.” They were transformed by the gift of Jesus and could not help but share the good news of His coming.
They were transformed by the gift of Jesus and could not help but share the good news of His coming.
As someone on a daily pursuit of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and the transformation process of the presence of Christ in me, I glorify and praise the name of Jesus for all that I have heard and seen. My life is forever changed because Jesus came to Earth as a baby to save me through His death on the cross and His resurrection on Easter.
Image by Diane Klock.