For my Dad, Ron Mayforth, the one who led me to the light.
Every year for the last four years, our church has had the opportunity to share a Live Nativity Production with the people of our city at a local Christmas Craft fair. Along with a couple of goats, volunteers are gathered from every age group. We usually have a real baby Jesus, a gaggle of kids playing either scruffy shepherds or cherubic angels, young adults to flesh out the roles of Joseph and Mary, and seniors of both sexes to play the Wise Men. This year, as I participated, I was struck once again by the story that marks the coming of God to us. So often, the lowliness of his birth is emphasized, the fact that he came as a helpless baby to an unknown, unwed teenager and her tradesman fiancée from a little town of little regard. There were no premium cotton sheets waiting, not even a proper crib or, for that matter, a sanitary, comfortable place for Mary to give birth. She hunkered down and grunted in the hay, not unlike the farm animals surrounding her. Hardly the dignified procession with the requisite pomp and splendor befitting the King of kings, but, if we look elsewhere, his arrival wasn’t completely without fanfare.
Let’s look at the story of God’s announcement of his coming to the shepherds. Luke 2:8-20 tells us that these were ordinary men working the night shift, tending their sheep in the open country, one of those thankless jobs with more stink involved than anything else. It would of been dark save the light of the moon and stars, something we who live in the cities of today are not accustomed to. They may have had a fire going for warmth and they may have been dozy or resting. According to this passage, an Angel of the Lord appeared suddenly and God’s glory was fearsome, startling, not a soft, gentle, gradual glow, but a light that, in an instant, split the night sky. These bleary eyed, unsuspecting men are described as terrified, an emotion I can hardly identify with. It seems a common occurrence for angels visiting human beings in the Bible to have to calm down and reassure those they’re sent to. The angel told them to relax, that he was the bearer of good news meant for everyone, that the Messiah, the one that would save his people from their sins, was born like any other baby and they could find him down yonder, wrapped up snugly and newly squawking, in a cattle stall. Doesn’t this sound insane? You’d think these simple folks would have been stunned and confused, incredulous or, at least, thinking there was something off about the stew they devoured before settling in for the night, except that they’d been hoping, praying, and waiting for this promised Messiah. That wasn’t the end of it. The angel brought friends and not just a quartet’s worth, but an army filling the sky, flooding the atmosphere and the wide-eyes of those shepherds with unremitting light. They, this army of blinged-out, celestial beings, proceeded to put up a wall of praise the likes of which, I’m sure, has not been heard on the earth since. It was an incredible spectacle, exactly what one may expect of the true light…coming into the world (John 1:9).
I think we’ve lost something in the frenzy of planning, shopping, decorating, cooking and baking, concerts and parties. We feed on mounds of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, our bellies swollen past uncomfortable and, yet, our souls our withering away with a lack of wonder. We ooh and ahh over cheap trinkets when we should be enraptured at the incarnation. We’ve become the dozy shepherds, going about our busyness, numb and empty and full of longing, groping about in the darkness. Wake us up with a start, Lord. Send your light to rip open our souls. May your message of love, joy, peace, and hope fill us to overflowing. May the angel’s song reverberate through every fiber of our beings until it comes out our mouths and we’re compelled to seek you where you may be found and share the wonder of your visitation with all who’ll listen. Amen and amen. Wishing you a blessed Christmas!
Feature photo: A mashup made by yours truly of an angel from Pixabay and my dumpster art.
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