This is one of my favorite passages that we hear so much during the Christmas season.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock. 9 And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. 10 And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: 11 For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
Luke 2:8-14 [Emphasis mine]
An angel of the Lord had been selected to deliver this news. I like to imagine they all wanted to do it so they did something like draw straws to figure out who got to. I mean, how much fun would that be to go and scare the crap out of the shepherds in the fields? And then you get to deliver the best news ever? And honestly, it’s kind of a silly story. Christ the Lord is in a manger?!?!
I kind of imagine everyone else just peeking around the clouds and such just to see their faces. And then…
They were all so overwhelmed with the magnitude of what was really happening that suddenly, spontaneously, they broke into song. They just couldn’t help it. Each and every one of them.
It was kind of a big deal. The birth of the Savior, the Christ child. This is the climax of the whole story. This is salvation. This is grace. Without Christmas, there is no Easter. And Easter is everything for those that believe.
No, it didn’t happen on December 25th. Also, the Bible never once commands followers of Christ to celebrate his birthday.
But…and this is a big deal…the early Christians were overcome with the same spirit that enthralled the heavenly host. It wasn’t enough to let one representative come and make the announcement to even those so lowly as shepherds watching their flocks in the night.
Imagine believing in something that could have you killed. And not in a pretty fashion. Thrown to lions kind of killed. Hung on a cross. Burned. You name it, the early Christians were eliminated that way. So they had an idea. Lets celebrate when they do. And so the early Christians decided to celebrate the entry of salvation into the world while the rest of the world went into winter solstice revelry. They even adopted some of the symbols and gave them new meaning.
It was still pretty risky. But they were overcome with the magnitude of the gift. God became flesh and lived among us. In the story ark of believers, this is where it gets really good. It’s the turning point. This is hope.
This is the same news that overwhelmed those that dwell in God’s heavenly kingdom all the time. They were overwhelmed with the urge to celebrate. How could we do any different?
It’s moved a bit off the solstice now, but we still celebrate as our early brothers and sisters once did. I am grateful to live in a place that I can do so openly without fear of punishment for my faith. I pray for those protecting that freedom that weren’t able to be home with their families this Christmas. May God Bless them and their loved ones. I hope that God has blessed you this Christmas season as well.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.