One morning last week, I woke early and went into the living room. As I sat on my couch with a cup of coffee, I looked at our Christmas tree and all the shimmering lights and special ornaments and I just....didn't feel it. It was a week before Christmas, my shopping was finished, there were Christmas cookies in the cookie jar, and I was just anxious for the whole holiday to be done and over with already.
I felt guilty for feeling that way. However now I'm so thankful for what the Lord revealed to me that evening.
There will likely be years where we don't feel like decorating or celebrating. It may be the loss of a loved one, a trial of sickness, a marital struggle, or some other brokenness or pain, but there will inevitably be seasons of inner gloom that make us want to turn off "Jingle Bells" and toss all the fudge and cookies in the trash can.
On that day last week, I felt a twinge of guilt for not being in the holiday mood. That evening I was searching the chambers of my heart, silently praying for God to speak to me, and I turned to Luke 2 to read the Christmas story that we are all so familiar with. This time something caught my eye.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 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 Saviour, 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. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
Shepherds are an intricate part of the Nativity scene. If you were to do a study on shepherds, you would notice that it was not an admirable position. They were lower class people, unable to keep all the details of the ceremonial law, like the meticulous hand washings, because their flocks demanded constant care. Sheep are not smart animals. They are helpless and at risk without a protector. Keeping watch over sheep was just a dirty, mundane task. And on this night, shepherds were watching their flocks in Bethlehem, just a few short miles away from the city of Jerusalem. Then the angel of the Lord came and the glory from Heaven shined down around them. Obviously the shepherds were afraid. Can you just imagine such a thing happening to you? And as always, "Fear not" were the first words spoken. How gracious of God to always think of comforting us first before telling us what needs to be heard! Good tidings of GREAT joy were told to the shepherds - to the simple ones doing everyday, ordinary work.
Reading this, I sat with tears welling up in my eyes. You see, I'm a mom. In society's eyes, I am nobody important. I spend my days and nights keeping watch over my little flock of three, doing simple, commonplace things like teaching the alphabet, cleaning up spilled cranberry juice, sweeping up broken crayons, playing hide and seek, and trying to explain why chewing with your mouth closed is so important. And like everyone, I have seasons of night.... long, dark night. But did you see what I saw in Luke 2?
It was in the dead of night when the glory of the Lord shone round about them.
1 Kings 8:12 says that God dwells in the thick darkness. We find in Scripture that the sanctuary of God is always filled with smoke, and it's in the secret places when the light of His glory shines. Is it scary? Most certainly! That is why "Fear not" are the words spoken again and again by the Father.
Friend, let us not be afraid of the Darkness or of His glory.
Why? Because a Savior is here! What good tidings of great joy that bring so much peace to a heart walking in the night!
Upon hearing the news, the shepherds did what we all do - they had to go and validate! They ran in faith, hoping that their faith would indeed be sight. And it was. And when they SAW the promised miracle of Love Incarnate, they couldn't contain their joy. Immediately they went and told the whole town.
That is Christmas. Right in the middle of a humdrum night, a simple group of people were given God's glory - first by word of mouth from the angels, then by seeing the Messiah right before their very eyes.
Is there something preventing you from experiencing the love and joy of Christmas? Is it a physical sickness that has left you ravished with fear? Is it a sacrifice or a loss where you have had to nail your dreams to a cross and watch them die? Is a secret sin that you have kept hidden that is eating away at your soul? Is it bitterness or anger or betrayal that has the door to your heart closed and locked to the world? Is it doubt and a loss of faith that has you walking around in a fog of hopelessness? Is it busyness that keeps you so focused on setting the table that you never sit down and enjoy the food?
Search your heart - every nook and cranny - and figure out what is stealing Christmas from you. Because we all know that Christmas isn't about light shows, Christmas parties, baking treats, or pretty packages under the tree. It's when - in the dark of night - God the Son came down as the Light of the World. It's when fears were stilled and comforted. It's when the humble became blessed. It's when faith became sight. It's when a centuries old promise was fulfilled.
There is nothing - absolutely nothing - that can hinder you or I from experiencing Love and Joy this year because God IS love and He extends that love and a big box of "all spiritual blessings" to us through Christ Jesus. Let us echo David and say, "...in thy presence is fulness of joy."