Close your eyes and imagine with me that we are two shepherds tending our flocks together on a hillside on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Something stirs within us. Our skin pricks with eager anticipation, but we’re not sure why. The stars are bright tonight, and their twinkling light almost looks as if they’re dancing in the sky. As we watch our sheep we begin to whisper, though we’re not sure why we feel the need for the hush.
We quietly discuss the chaos in town as hundreds of people have flooded in to register for Caesar Augustus’s big census. We’ve both taken in family members from out of town and our houses are bursting at the seams. There isn’t enough room for everyone, and even our stables are full of people. We’re not alone, everyone has given up every square inch of available space to these relatives. We quickly agree to thank God for the quiet of this hillside after such an exhausting week.
Falling silent, our souls whisper their own prayers of gratitude as our attention is once again drawn to the curious star that recently appeared over our little town. Though we don’t know it, both of our minds have drifted to thoughts of the long-awaited Messiah. Something inside of us knows, He is near!
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Suddenly, what looks like a glowing man stands before us, all dressed in white and shining with a supernatural light. Neither one of us saw where He came from, and we certainly don’t know why he looks like that, so until he speaks we’re totally freaking out. Somehow, his voice calms our fears and what he tells us is too good to be true! The Messiah has come! He was just born tonight, right here in Bethlehem, and he even tells us how to find Him!
Before we know it, this magnificent stranger is joined by a whole host of others just like him. They look like an army. A glorious, heavenly army, and they’re singing the most beautiful song we’ve ever heard! Our hearts leap with joy at their words, and our souls join in the praise, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased!”
As soon as they’re gone we look at each other and agree, we have to go find this baby they told us about. We forget our sheep and take off running! We’re not alone, many other shepherds in the surrounding fields saw the same thing we saw, and we’re all following the star, daring to hope the angel’s words are true.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
It takes us a little while to find the right stable, and as we’re searching for Him the history of our people runs through our heads. It has been so long. So long since we’ve heard anything from God. For 400 years He has been silent. Even before that, though, things had been hopeless. No matter what we’ve tried, we are a people who wander from our Lord. Helpless to keep His law. We need to be rescued, but so many have given up believing that it will ever happen.
As we dare to think that rescue has finally come, our souls tingle with hope. Could it really be true? Could our promised Messiah really be here? Could our King really have come tonight? We’ve never felt so awake. So alive. For the first time our future holds such promise. Could we really be witnesses to the dawning of a new day? The coming of the Kingdom of God?
And then we see it. The stable. We know it’s the one. Suddenly, our pace slows and we approach the door with cautious wonder.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
As soon as we see Him we know it’s all true and we fall to our knees. This is Emmanuel! His parents don’t seem concerned by our presence, and they even let us hold Him! There is nothing in all the world that compares to this moment. To hold the Lord God Almighty in our arms… who are we that God would bestow this honor upon us? Humble shepherds, holding the Good Shepherd in our arms. We will never be the same. Surly we’ll spend the rest of our lives telling everyone we know about this divine night. The most holy night of all time!
The Wise Men
Now, let’s imagine ourselves in another story. Instead of lowly shepherds, we are now two prestigious scholars from the far east. We have spent our lives studying and seeking the divine, and a few months ago the One True God revealed Himself to us! He placed a star in the sky announcing the coming of His Son, the One the descendants of Israel call the Messiah, and gave us the wisdom and understanding to recognize what it was.
With all our riches we’ve had no problem gathering together the resources we need to travel the long miles to the land of Israel. As our caravan has made its way across the desserts, The God of Heaven has faithfully shown us the way, and we’re trusting Him to work out each and every detail.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle, we stand.
So led by thelight of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
After months of anticipation, we finally arrive at the door of our Lord and Savior’s home. Though we are feeling uneasy after our encounter with Herod along the way, all those thoughts quickly vanish when Mary and Joseph usher us into the presence of Jesus. Though the world sees us as royalty, we know immediately that we are nothing. This child, this baby, is the One True King. We fall to our knees and worship Him. The rich gifts we brought seem trite now, but we present them anyhow. Humbly laying them at His majestic feet.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need,our weaknessisno stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
This baby, this Holy One, holds such hope. Such promise. God has given us understanding and we recognize that though we are mere humans, this child was born so that He could understand our weaknesses. This little baby is love personified, for He will bring redemption to the trials of countless people who would otherwise have no hope. He will be a friend to the weak and the oppressed. He will heal the broken, and set captives free. It seems we can’t bend low enough to communicate our contrition before Him. He is our King, and we will worship Him for the rest of our lives and then for all of eternity!
His Dearly Loved Daughters
It’s fun to imagine what it would have been like to be a part of those stories. To see Jesus as a little baby. Honestly, I’m not sure I can even imagine the awe and wonder! But, even though we’ll never hold the baby Jesus in our arms, we ARE a part of the story!
God didn’t just come to earth, live a life, and die. He was born, lived, and died with a grander purpose. He came to offer salvation, because He was the only One who could. He left us His Word, and His Own Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts and make us one with Him. He adopted us into His family so that now, we’re His dearly loved daughters! That position doesn’t come without expectations!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Jesus Christ was born, died and rose again to SET US FREE! He broke the oppressive chains of sin and death and gave us new life in Him. That life is eternal. Never. Ending! Do you know why He did it?
It wasn’t because we deserve it. We don’t! It was for one simple reason: He loved us. He showed us what true, unconditional love looks like, and He expects that example to catch on. When love unthinkable takes up residents in our hearts, shouldn’t it then spill out? In light of His work, let’s commit to living in obedience to His law of love. Let’s live to spread His gospel of peace.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
This Christmas may the voice of His church be lifted up as one grateful voice singing out our hymns of joy! May we praise His Holy Name together. May we love one another with a pure and undivided love. May we live to know Him and to make Him known. For Christ IS the Lord! May we praise His name forever and proclaim His power and glory today, tomorrow, and forevermore!