Cold. Dark. Lonely. Regular. Expected. Normal. Think of your life and think of tasks that you perform regularly. Maybe you dread them. Maybe you enjoy them. What you do not expect is to be visited by angels.
Why do we not expect angels? Should we expect messengers from Heaven? In the circles that I have normally moved around in we have a little bit of an unhealthy relationship with angels. We either ignore them or we seek to venerate them by trying to fully define their roles and their possibilities. To some degree this is due to the fact that we have a tendency to seek to control God so therefore it must be that we control his creatures as well.
In Luke’s Gospel however we view this theme developing that God can work and does work, miraculously. Free from the abilities and expectations of everyone who is present. Free from the systems and methods of power that have been adopted and coerced upon us.
Zechariah meets an angel. Mary meets an angel. Joseph meets an angel. Now we are headed towards the night of the birth when a group of shepherds meet a group of angels.
As we simply read through the story we find ourselves realizing that the shepherds seemed to have a different experience than the others. They were notified by the angels after the birth of Jesus. All of the others were told of a promise that was yet to come, theirs had already come to pass.
There is more happening here though than simple linear time. The shepherds, just like the others mentioned above, had to decide whether or not they would act on what they were told. Could there really be a baby born in a stable that could change the world? Can there be peace on earth?
What do you think? Can there be peace on earth? Is there peace on earth? Often when we use these phrases we excuse them by giving them some other definition of meaning that allows us to excuse what does not seem or feel like peace to us.
God comes in humility but God is always proclaimed. Jesus himself said that our worship of him was truest and most possible when we serve in humility. Then he says in those moments of service that we meet him.
Would if the obstacle to peace on earth in my life is my pursuit of things that promote and celebrate me instead of worshipping in humility at stable troughs?
A Family Challenge
It’s Monday with all the busyness of the holiday season. Here is a simple thing that your family can do over the next two weeks as you approach Christmas by using the Christmas cards that your family receives as an opportunity to bless others.
When your family is together, take a few moments and allow family members to pick cards and take turns praying for the families represented on the cards. If you place your cards in a basket this is a simple task and can be done at the dinner table. If, however, your cards are used as decorations throughout the house you may have to pick a room or different area each time that you do this. If you have smaller children then your prayers might be the most interesting thing that your family does this Christmas.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, 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.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.