It’s Christmas Eve! My younger kids (age 9 and 11) are charged with excitement, begging to open just one gift, or at least put them under the tree. They cannot contain themselves. At Faith Church we’re looking forward to a wonderful time of worship tonight. We’ve had artists from our congregation creating art to illustrate the four weeks of Advent, and tonight we celebrate as more people from the congregation will add artistry through voice and the spoken word. Like my kids, ours will be a church like so many others today, filled with joy and light and excitement!
On that first Christmas there was another group that couldn’t contain themselves.
After hearing glorious news of the birth of the king, they rush into town to verify the message. Finding it true, they cannot keep their mouths shut, as they start telling everyone what just happened. The shepherds are positively beaming. It might be the middle of the night when they finally return to their sheep, still shaking their heads at the once in a life-time experience they’ve just had. And they are praising God!
Joy to the World the Lord has come.
I imagine their joy eventually wore off. That was a big night. But things get back to normal pretty quick. Sheep to watch, sheep to feed, sheep to shear, sheep to sell. Real life. What pays the bills. And that baby isn’t heard from again. I wonder if any of them were still alive 30 years later, when his time had come? Did they remember? Hearing stories of an up-and-coming teacher and miracle-worker and how some people were speculating that he was the Messiah, might one of them added up the years and realized this was the baby, now a young man?
I wonder how long they told the story of that one glorious night?
I wonder if life got in the way. I wonder if they started to doubt. I wonder if people started to make fun of them, say they were hallucinating, dreaming, and that babies are a dime a dozen. “Where is this king now?” people might say. “The Romans are quite solidly in power. Shut-up, shepherds. We don’t want to hear about the angels anymore.”
And maybe they did shut-up.
We make a big deal out of Christmas every year because it is a big deal.
When that baby was born, and those angels blazed in the night sky, and the shepherds’ hearts were bursting, it was because it IS a big, big deal. There is hope, there is a savior! God wants to have peace with humanity! That’s incredible news for those of us walking in darkness.
But have we become quiet about this?
Have the years gone by, the job that requires too many hours, the busy family, the house, the lawn…in my case these last few weeks, the wood stove, the fridge, signing up for new health care…
Has life gotten in the way? Has life shut us up?
If we feel the burden of life, then we need these boisterous Christmas celebrations. We need Advent. We need to cry our eyes out because our great God has shown us grace and mercy and peace in Jesus. And we need our hearts to be filled.
And we need our tongues loosed to tell the good news. Those humble shepherds’ tongues were loosed.
60 years after these events, Luke wasn’t afraid to directly challenge Rome by telling the story. He wrote it in a book. It was the kind of story that could get you killed! A new king’s birth that trumped the current king? Sitting kings don’t always take kindly the news that a contender to the throne has been born. They like to kill off the competition. Right after Jesus’ birth, word got to the local king, Herod, and he responded in an infant genocide that caused Joseph and Mary to flee with Jesus to Egypt. Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth presents a bold message to the world leader in Rome, the Caesar. Take a look at this thought-provoking article that shows how Luke’s courageous message could have gotten him killed! Because his heart was filled to overflowing and his tongue (or pen) was loosed, and he told the story of God’s peace for all, there is a Savior for all, and he welcomes everyone to his Kingdom!
When was the last time you were so jacked up about something you just couldn’t keep quiet about it?
When was the last time you experienced something so amazing, so incredible you just wanted to tell everyone about it?
When was the last time you got good news and you started lighting up Facebook about it, thumbing out text messages to your family and friends?
That’s what Christmas is all about. Let’s not just keep the carols in our churches tonight. What could it look like for you to spread Christmas joy, hope, love, grace and mercy to the people in your life?