Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 8: Luke 2:8

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. -Luke 2:8

Isn't it interesting that there are only three kinds of people mentioned in the Bible that notice something special is happening at the time of Jesus' birth:  the Magi, King Herod, and the shepherds.  Everyone else around them seems to be clueless to the miracle happening right before their eyes.

The Magi had an intellectual knowledge that something special was going to take place.  They were religious leaders who were knew for their knowledge of astrology, which at the time was considered a science.  They knew about the Hebrew people and the Hebrew scriptures and when they noticed the star, they went to investigate what it meant.  They were intellectually curious and sought Jesus because of that.

King Herod knew something special was going on, but he knew it because he was threatened by what the star meant.  He was appointed King of Judea by the Roman government and because of the high Jewish population of that area, he referred to himself as "King of the Jews".  Herod, actively watching out for any threats to his power and throne, knew that the Jews believed that the star in the sky that the Magi saw would be a sign that the real "King of the Jews" was coming.  He pretended to want to worship the newborn King and tried to convince the Magi that worshiping the King of the Jews was his motivation, but it was obvious that he was more concerned with his own self-interests and actually wanted to destroy this threat to his throne.

Lastly, the shepherds knew that something special was happening.  They spent most of their time outdoors, in the quiet, watching their flock.  They lived a routine, mundane existence.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and the shepherds became witnesses to a heavenly sight praising God and telling them to go seek the Christ child.  Because of the incredible sights they had seen, they sought the child and then told everyone in town what had happened, and then worshiped some more.

At times, we react to the gift of Jesus Christ in each of these three ways.  There are times in our Christian walk where we let our intellect drive us.  We become very focused on the scriptures and on what we have been taught and we seek him out of curiosity instead of devotion.

Then there are times when even the best of us seek out Jesus in the same manner as Herod.  Our eyes are focused on ourselves and we only want to see things about Jesus that affirm our own sense of self.  Giving to the poor, serving others, being the least...those are threats to our pride and either consciously or unconsciously we try to destroy those notions so that they can't convict us and put us back in our place.  Just like Herod called himself "King of the Jews", we call ourselves "God", and just as Herod was put in his place by the real, God appointed "King of the Jews, we are put in our place by our real, God appointed "God".

Lastly, and hopefully, we respond to Jesus like the shepherds did.  

Have you ever wondered why the angels appeared to the shepherds and not to another group of people, such as tax collectors, soldiers, townspeople, etc.?  The Bible doesn't say specifically, but my guess is that the shepherds had a few things going for them that the other people didn't.  First of all, it would be hard for a shepherd to think themselves to be better than anyone else.  Being a shepherd was hard, manual labor and was usually the equivalent of a lower-middle class job.  Second, they were out in nature, in the quiet.  They weren't so rushed and so busy that they would miss or discount something they saw in the sky.  They were calm and in a place where there was little commotion.  Lastly, they were simple in their thinking.  They saw angels, found the Christ child, told people about it and then went back and worshiped again.  They didn't stand around for twenty minutes debating whether or not what they saw were angels or some abnormality in the night sky or some delusion that they got drinking too much.  Then they didn't spend more time deciding what the best way to go to the manger, which path was the longest, how would they find it, what would they need to take with them.  They didn't stall and fret about who to tell about Jesus, who would be offended by it or whether they should pass out pamphlets on pink paper or green!  They saw a miracle, knew it was from God, did what they were told and then told everyone else about the incredible news they had.

We can learn a lot by trying to mimic the shepherds.  If we want to hear from God, we need to make sure our hearts are right, which generally means reminding yourself that you are small and God is big, that you are a servant and God is your master.  Then, we need to get some quiet space worked into our lives.  It doesn't mean that we need to become shepherds, but when can you take time to really listen to God.  It could be anything from a quiet time in the morning to using the time you mow your grass to pray and listen (it's not like you can hear anything else over the sound of the mower).  And lastly, and most importantly, when God tells us to do something, we need to just go do it.  We can get stuck spinning our wheels trying to plan out every little minutia of the plan and never actually go and do what God wants because we lost our opportunity.  Planning isn't a bad thing, but at some point, you need to get up and go and do and leave the rest to God.  Let us all respond to God more like the shepherds and have the faith in Him to go and do!

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