This first week of Advent is the week of Hope!
In the countryside nearby were some shepherds spending the night in the fields, guarding their flocks, when an angel of Adonai appeared to them, and the Sh’khinah of Adonai shone around them. They were terrified; but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, because I am here announcing to you Good News that will bring great joy to all the people. This very day, in the town of David, there was born for you a Deliverer who is the Messiah, the Lord. Here is how you will know: you will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly, along with the angel was a vast army from heaven praising God:
“In the highest heaven, glory to God!
And on earth, peace among people of good will!”
No sooner had the angels left them and gone back into heaven than the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go over to Beit-Lechem and see this thing that has happened, that Adonai has told us about.” Hurrying off, they came and found Miryam and Yosef, and the baby lying in the feeding trough. Upon seeing this, they made known what they had been told about this child; and all who heard were amazed by what the shepherds said to them. Miryam treasured all these things and kept mulling them over in her heart. Meanwhile, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen; it had been just as they had been told.Luke 2:8-20 (CJB)
Imagine if the story had gone something like this: Some shepherds are finally sitting down after chasing stupid sheep around the fields outside the city all day. They’d finally got the sheep rounded up and settled down when an angel appears out of nowhere and gets the sheep all riled up. Chaos ensues as the shepherds try to keep the stupid sheep from scattering all over the city. They’re pretty angry with this angel who just upset all the work they’d done. The angel tells them to not be afraid—he’s got great news! The shepherds kindly inform the angel of business hours and tell him they’re not interested in his news. Please leave, they insist, so they can resettle their stupid sheep and get some rest. The angel goes away, news untold.
Now, imagine Mary, as these dirty weird shepherds show up to ogle her newly-born son. I’m not sure about you, but strangers who just came out of the field aren’t my idea of great guests to have post-birth. In fact, having any guests post-birth kind of sounds horrible to me. But imagine if Mary was like, “Dudes, I don’t know you. I just gave birth. Kindly go away.” Instead, we find her taking a mental picture of what is happening and holding those memories close. She’s treasuring these horrible visitors!
We’d all be pretty stunned to read that story. We’d be thinking these shepherds were idiots! An angel appears, and they’re so concerned about some freaked out sheep they won’t listen to what he even has to say. Yet, if we were in this story, wouldn’t that be how we’d react? We don’t do well with being inconvenienced—especially not this time of year. Sure, we want to help others when it can be planned out and fit in, but we don’t want unexpected interruptions to our masterfully-laid plans. You think I’m wrong? How do people act in shopping malls around this time of year? It’s all merry and bright until it comes down to the last X-box on the shelf. Then, our true colors begin to show. We look at the tiny box shaped glimpses into the lives of others through our social media of choice, and we get a little Scroogey on the inside—wondering why our little box is so lacking. (And then we take a picture and post our own little box, filtered and angled perfectly to make others feel that same way.) Why? Because our hearts are bent and twisted, and we miss the point all too often.
This Christmas, let’s not let that inner Scrooge win. Let’s choose to be glad. If you think you cannot choose to be glad, I insist you try it. Decide you’ll be glad, and then try to live that out. See what happens. Choose to rejoice. Choose to be happy with what you have. Choose to look around and see that your little box is perfect for this season. The news of salvation was brought not to the house of the king but to shepherds. Shepherds who were willing to be a little inconvenienced for the sake of something bigger than they were. Shepherds who were willing to let their lives be intruded on. Like Mary, let us look at what is around us and treasure it. Let us look at the Charlie Brown tree and make a mental note of that tree. Let’s not spend our holidays comparing and losing. Let’s just be glad. Even if we think the season is broken this year, let’s be glad. Even if we’re just hoping to get past this season so we can say, “Goodbye,” to one of the worst years most of us have known, let’s be glad. Even if we feel put out by others, let’s be glad.
Today’s song: It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad! By Sufjan Stevens