We all know the story.
The shepherds were “out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night”. These guys were at work. They were doing their job, just like they had done it every night. They no doubt had seen “the star” in the sky for some time and perhaps wondered what it was, or what was going on. The wise men had seen the star, and were on their way to Bethlehem. There was something special about that star. They had never seen it before, and it shone brighter than any star they had ever seen. They must have been mesmerized by it.
Then, something happened to them that didn’t happen to anyone else in the “Christmas story” recorded in the Bible. Out of the blue, an angel appeared to them and the “glory of God shown all around them”. This was no normal. They had seen many wonderful things out in the fields, mountains and valleys in their day – but nothing like this. They had encountered wild animals, storms, robbers, and other scary things – but this took the cake. The Bible says they were “terribly afraid”.
Then the angel spoke to them. And what he said was for them “not to be afraid”, and explained what was happening that night that was so extraordinary. He told them that there was reason for celebration and for great joy. Then, right about the time the poor shepherds heart rates had calmed down somewhat….there appeared to them “a multitude of heavenly hosts (angels) praising and worshipping God”. How awesome to catch a glimpse of the heavenly worship service that continues around the throne of God. Did this go on for a while? Did they sing only one song? Did the shepherds join in, or were they on their faces in fear again? Oh, to have been there.
I love the dialogue that follows in Luke, Chapter 2. After the angels departed, the shepherds began to talk among themselves and concluded that they should “go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened”. Ya think? I bet there was not too much debate on that issue.
After they visited the stable and experienced even more of the majesty and glory of what the angels had explained, the guys decided to “go back” to work. But his time, things were different. They would probably never be the same. They had seen too much. They had experienced too much to just go back to life as they had known it. The passage tells us they “went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen”. We never hear about these guys again in Scripture, but we know that their lives were forever changed by that one night.
My question is this.
What have we “heard and seen” that has changed our lives and filled our heart with joy and praise? Yes, most of us have had an encounter with Christ at some point in our lives, and life was different for a season, but I am talking about lately. What have you heard God say to you, or seen Him do for you that has filled your life with wonder, and compelled you to worship? Sadly, most of us settle into a routine of church-going, and/or an occasional devotional reading and just go about our days herding our sheep. We wake up, get ready for work, eat whatever strikes us, go to work, do the same things the same way, eat at the same places with the same people, go home, pat the kids and wife, settle down to some TV, and then hit the bed only to start over again tomorrow.
Have we encountered the living and powerful God lately? Hearing a good sermon is great. Reading a great Christian book is meaningful. But, when is the last time we encountered God in a meaningful, almost frightening way? Hearing Him speak to us – personally. Seeing His hand in obviously ways during the mundane events of our week. Are we even listening or looking for Him? Have we stopped trying?
I want to encourage us to lift up our eyes this Christmas, and listen more attentively to His involvement around us. God is here. He is speaking, He is doing. He is just as ready and willing to encounter us as He was those scruffy shepherds 2,000 years ago. Maybe we need to slow down long enough, or get alone with Him long enough to notice.
Take some time over the Holidays to get alone with God. Go for a walk, or a drive. Wake up earlier than the family and sit in silence, in His presence, and listen for His voice. He loves encountering His children, and He loves revealing Himself in ways that will once again fill our hearts with awe and joy.
Silent night, Holy night……