Christmas wondering

“In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before them….” (Luke 2:8ff.)

I wonder a lot about that first Christmas.

I wonder about the shepherds Luke told us about, the men tending their sheep throughout the night in the field outside Bethlehem.

What a magical moment this must have been for them.  I wonder what that was like.

As a farm boy, I can imagine myself outside in that field with them. I’ve kept the calves and cattle, the pigs and the mules and horses. I could keep sheep. It’s basically unskilled labor, we’re told. My pastor said last Sunday that shepherds in Judea ranked on the social scale one notch above lepers.  I could be a shepherd.  What would that have been like that night?

–I wonder what they were talking about in the few minutes prior to the angels’ visit.  Did they have a fire going?  Were they talking or dozing or joshing with one another?  Were they friends or even brothers?

–And when the Angel of the Lord arrived and filled the sky with Heaven’s glory, I wonder if anyone else could have seen what they saw and heard what they heard that night.  Would someone in an adjoining field have been dazzled by that same display? Or would they would have seen nothing?

My guess is they would not have seen a thing, that the angelic host that evening was sent to the shepherds’ and none other.  In Matthew 2, no one else seems to have been transfixed by the star that went before the Magi.

So maybe this was just for them.

God does not hesitate to send a display of His power and glory for one or two people and leave everyone else in the dark.  He does not require a large audience for His works. Elisha the prophet asked God to open the eyes of his servant so he could behold the heavenly host encircling the city keeping it safe from the bad guys (2 Kings 6:17).  All of that was for the eyes of one man, and then just two.

When God’s cloud settled between the Israelites and the Egyptians who were chasing them across the Red Sea, on one side there was light for God’s people and the other side gave off darkness (Exodus 14:19-20).

–I wonder what the shepherds first said when the angelic choir disappeared and suddenly the world was thrown into darkness again.  Scripture records them saying, “Let us go now even unto Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass.”  But you cannot tell me that’s all they said or was even the first thing out of their mouths.

Surely their first reaction as the angels disappeared was stunned silence. And then, maybe a first-century Aramaic equivalent of “Wow!” “Holy smoke!”  “Can you believe this?”  “Did I see what I think I just saw?”

–I wonder where Luke got this story.  It almost had to be directly from the shepherds themselves, perhaps 40 years after the fact, or from Mary as she remembered it from the shepherds that night in the stable.  Or both.

In Luke 1:1-4, the author tells his friend Theophilus about why he was penning this account.  “I carefully investigated everything from the very first,” he said, “so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.”

Luke is described by Paul in Colossians 4:14 as “beloved physician.”  Much has been made of this profession and how valuable it was to us that a man of science researched the story and recorded it with such care, such as a medical professional would have done.  But, from the little we know of medical doctors in the first century, I’m unconvinced they were all that knowledgeable or even devoted to science. So, we may just have to leave that there.  But still, I wonder.

–I wonder about those shepherds in succeeding years. As the decades came and went, did they get together at the local coffee shop, wherever retired shepherds congregated to reminisce and pass the time, and talk about that night and raise questions about it?  Did they begin to doubt?  Did one say, “It’s been thirty years.  You’d think we’d have heard something by now.”

We’re left to wonder a lot of things.

Mostly I wonder how people can center their attention on manmade fantasies such as Rudolph and Frosty and elves and Grinches when the true story is infinitely more fascinating, more wonderful, and more relevant to our lives.

I wonder how people can admire the Lord Jesus and sing the carols and celebrate His birth without wanting to know Him personally and inviting Him into their hearts and lives.

I wonder at the way political correctness has taken hold in our world so that people can celebrate anything this time of the year but Jesus, can call the birth day anything they’d like but Christmas, and can throw alcoholic parties and spend themselves into serious debt, all ostensibly in His name–when they do not even know Him.

I wonder at the way God’s redeemed children seem unconcerned and even aid and abet the perverting of the Advent this way.

People sure are crazy. Or, to use a biblical description: lost.

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