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And there were shepherds. I love these five words. And there were shepherds watching their sheep at night, living in those fields. These weren’t guys putting in an eight hour shift, this was their life. These bearded-bath robed farmers are caring for lambs either destined for table or temple.
The Gospel of Luke records that these normally courageous defenders of all things white and furry lost their courage when suddenly without warning a messenger appears. This would seem out of place on a good day, but Luke says that there was this heavenly vibe about this being, and it terrified them. “Don’t be afraid, it has happened, the saviour of the world has been born…this is it” where the words the unnerved shepherds heard.
‘And here’s your sign, a baby lying in a manger’. I love that the Heavenly messenger has to spell out what it’s going to look like. They wouldn’t have the first clue what to look for. If the shepherds saw a baby in a feed box, they would think Mary was feeding Jesus to the cows. When God shows up in this world it is never as we expect.
‘Let’s go see this thing that has happened’. I love that this is the best way they can describe it-‘this thing’. They didn’t have to go, but wanted to. You see we always have a choice as to whether or not we want to participate with God, to look for the things he has done and is doing. These Shepherds quickly get up and go and find this infant in a stable and tell the new parents all they had heard from this Messenger of heaven.
‘And Mary treasure all these words’. I bet she did. There is no question that was a rough night for this teenage mom. It’s a rough night no matter who you are. She is far away from home in a barn having a baby. There was nothing miraculous in that stable that night aside from the miracle of life. There wasn’t a moonbeam shining through a sunroof that landed perfectly on the baby. There wasn’t Angels with ice chips and heart monitors or talking cows or even wise men from the East. I wonder if Mary and Joseph thought that God was still in this thing, wondering if the heavenly messenger that came 9 months earlier may have been wrong. But then there were shepherds, and Mary treasured their words in her heart.
In the Bible the world Angel comes from the greek word Aggelos which means messenger. The term doesn’t always mean a winged androgynous being impeccably dressed in white. The same word that describes these angels visiting the shepherds is applied to John the Baptist in Mark 1. The context of the word helps us understand if the Messenger is from above or below, if it’s wearing white, or khaki. Luke records that this messenger that came to the shepherds had a heavenly aura- and thats our context to let us know this angel is from above. But when the Shepherds go to Mary and deliver all that this angel had said-they become God’s messengers, and in that moment I think Mary knew they were sent from God. She treasured all they had said. They reminded her that God was in this.
This account reminds me that God can show up in my life through the appearance of a supernatural being or in the kindness and words of a stranger willing to go and see what God is up to. Both are angels-messengers sent from God. I haven’t had any supernatural deliveries, but I think I have experienced some amazing things.
You see it’s only in our eyes that an Angel is supernatural. Consider that they do what God wants. But to God, when we who have free will, do what he desires – that’s a miracle that amazes him.
So today, if you find yourself alone in the darkness of your stable. Experiencing the labor of your pain, or the feelings of rejection or fear. May I be the terrified farmer that tells you that God knows, and don’t give up hope. May I be your Angel that reminds you that God has not abandoned you, he is still in this.
And when you pray, don’t close your eyes and look up. Open them and look around, you will have a better chance of seeing God at work for and through you, because it is christmas after all and we don’t just celebrate that God is for us, but that he is with us.
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