They lived out in the open air, perhaps much like cowboys around campfires back in the day. They made a living out of watching. You’d think nothing would surprise them. Yet right there in the middle of their daily duties, God interrupts the common with the surprise of a lifetime.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” Luke 2:9
And these common shepherds were included in “all the people.” The news was too glorious to confine to royal ears exclusively. Because this wasn’t exclusive news, but rather inclusive, for “all the people.”
There can be so much to do during the Holiday season. It can be difficult to take care of those in our own flock with cooking, cleaning and family, work and school parties. It’s a full-time job serving those we “tend to” the way the shepherds were tending to the sheep. But it was news too good to keep quiet two thousand years ago, and it is still the same today.
We have common shepherds all around us: the veteran holding the piece of cardboard at the stoplight, the plumber who squeezes in our address when we plead with him to fix the toilet before our Christmas party, our next door neighbor that we hardly know, what is her name anyway? I understand. They surround me too. And I forget to see. But God did not. He included the ordinary, the ones who are easily unseen. The shepherds were likely uneducated and needing a bath, smelling like sheep. Yet he went out of his way to bring them good news.
Who are the people we no longer see? The mailman, our kids’ teachers, the barista who always gets our coffee right? They may be watching and waiting for good news this Christmas. Will we bring glory to them, leading them to the manger?
And even though it was the best news ever, the interruption was so abrupt, so mighty, that they had to be encouraged, emboldened with “Do not be afraid.” It was a suddenly kind of moment. The text reads, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared…” (Luke 2:13) Glory showed up when they were quite possibly at their worst. Who knows what these rough and rugged men had been talking about just moments previously. They had on their work clothes and were in the middle of doing a seemingly insignificant job. And now God sent angelic messengers right in the middle of their humble everyday duties to interrupt the ordinary with the extraordinary. God wanted them just as they were.
Do we want our good news message this badly? So badly that we would welcome an interruption in our jam packed schedule? So badly that we would put down the dishtowel to an invitation to our prayer closet? So badly that we would pause to hear our grade-schooler’s story in the middle of our day? It just might be good news, the kind that brings great joy.
If they had known ahead of time, they may have cleaned up, prepared, boasted that they had been chosen. There wasn’t time for any of that. The message came suddenly. After all, there were things to be done! But God came with words that would bring great joy to a longing they hadn’t even known they had. God wants to interrupt our everyday with a message of joy. Are we watching? Are we waiting?
They left what they were doing, because nothing could be more important than this! A Savior is born! This is what the angel had said, “…the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Luke 2:15
The message required action! And they were ready to take it. They were rewarded with the single greatest Wonder of the World--ever. Their excitement led to action, but their action led to joy and wonder. It was just the way the angel told them it would be. If they hadn’t acted upon what they had just heard, they would have missed the greatest moment of their lives. In fact, it would be the greatest honor anyone could ever have expected to experience. They. Saw. God.
I wonder how often we have the chance to see God, but we don’t go and see? The angels gave a simple instruction. The shepherds acted and they saw. I shudder to think of the times God has instructed and the joy I’ve missed by not acting.
Have you ever had really good news, yet you were told to keep a secret? It’s a really hard thing to do. It feels as though the secret will burst your heart into pieces. The shepherds didn’t keep this news to themselves. The Shepherds did not keep their excitement to themselves. They spread the word about what they had experienced. They shared the joy that they had found in the presence of Jesus.
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them (Luke 2:17-18).
There is joy in sharing goodness. One of the best parts in dining with family is to taste something delicious and share a bit with any and all who will try. Scripture invites us to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,…” (Psalm 34:8). Therefore, we can invite others to do the same. Share the goodness with great delight, just like we’d share our food. It doesn’t need to be weird and unnatural, just a friendly and loving sharing of the goodness of God in our life.
This Christmas, will you join me? Will you join me by allowing yourself to see everyone, especially those to whom you have been blind? Will you join me by allowing yourself to be interrupted, even in the most common of moments for the gloriously uncommon? Will you join me in being willing to have God come to you just as you are, even before you buy your Christmas sweater, clean your house and get your nails done? Will you join me in accepting an invitation to joy masqueraded as a simple instruction? If you do; if you take some advice from the shepherds: You. Will. See. God.
Rev. Deb Koster