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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 2:1–20

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Why were the shepherds the first to hear? Why in the world were the weather-beaten, out-on-the-margins shepherds the ones whose eyes were opened, and whose hearts were shown the light, the flurry, the immense arrival of grace?

I think we all have shepherds in us. We try to keep those in our charge safe. We will go to great ends to be sure that everyone we attend to is satisfied. We make a fire, harboring the lost, the fearful, the sad. And the flickering fire’s light reminds us that our shepherd self will not stumble off the path. It reminds us that ours is the shepherd life, wondering what this is all coming to, out in the field, watching.

Perhaps God Almighty, flinger of stars and hound of heaven, was lonely that night when the baby arrived. Perhaps the maker of heaven and earth was bursting at the seams with such joy, such excitement, such absolutely astonishing news that, of course, it was the shepherds who would be first in line. The shepherds were watching their flocks. They were paying attention to the night, to the sky. And the ruckus, the flurry, the sheer spectacle of it all anticipated another angel, another day, years later, when the angel brought news of resurrection joy. And it was the shepherd in Mary who ran to tell her brothers the good news. It was the shepherd in the other women who could not contain the joy. And it is the shepherd in us, the slow of foot, the rough and tumble, the hyper-responsible, the tenderhearted, that catches a glimpse of the light, the astonishing joy, the undoing of our fear. And we run to the manger as if our life depends on it. And it does.

Glad and gracious God, let us go with haste to Bethlehem to see the thing that has been told to us. And may our rough-and-tumble lives, the homely hearts that beat within us, be ready to be astonished by a night sky that lights up and quenches our fear. In the name of the Child, we pray. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith,
Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

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