Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Christmas Reflection

Tell the story simply and from the heart

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2: 8-9

There was nothing great and glorious about Jesus’ birth, any more than the birth of any child. In truth he arrived following the pains of childbirth, in a lowly setting. With the exception of the three kings who came bearing gifts, everyone and everything around the baby Jesus was simple, natural and rustic. He came from humble beginnings, but he was not forever trapped in a stable. He grew in stature and wisdom and became someone who would forever change humankind, not with physical might, but with compassion, mercy, wisdom and truth.

His birth was attended by a host of angels, so perhaps it wasn’t so humble after all. He is the Son of God, and there is nothing humble about that. How he lived is a testament to divine light; how he died is a commentary on the cruelty of humanity; how he rose from the dead is God’s love for us made manifest.

Good news of great joy. The divine and the human, one child, one night one incredible story. Christmas lights are a reminder of His equally incredible love for all humankind revealed when a new light – born in a manger – came into the world. Bells are angel voices, tolling out the story. Carols are the music of human hearts raised in praise and thanksgiving. Christmas is for Christians, yes this is so, but the story is for everyone, no exceptions. God’s love is remarkable, unfathomable and not subject to human interpretation. Does God hold each of us accountable? I believe he does, but that is God’s job, not mine. Thank the God of all creation it isn’t my job to decide how or if others will accept the joyful news of Christ’s birth. My job is to light the lights, ring the bells and sing the songs that tell the story, Christ is born.

Because of God’s love we who accept his truth are among the chosen, and it matters not to God what faith label we carry. How awesome is that? God in his glory, fully realized in every sense of the word, powerful beyond imagining, greater than anything human minds can conceive, creator and author of all of life, in all of the cosmos, God has chosen to love you and me. I am struck speechless at the idea of it, knowing full well I haven’t deserved this love and have at times forgotten that it is there, holding me up, protecting me in the storms of life, taking it as my due. God’s love for me is singular. It is based on his infinite love for his creations, you and me. The thing is that although it is singular to me, it is also singular to every person upon whom his favor rests. His choice. His love. Amazing beyond words.

I say thank you, God, for the babe in a manager and thank you that he didn’t remain there, a symbol of something. Instead he grew to be a man, God in human form, who taught and encouraged, healed and redeemed, a single individual who changed the world forever. I often don’t understand what I read in the Bible, I trust its message and give thanks.

No, God did not send the Child into a rich family, and the first people to hear about the birth were not the elite and educated. The message got out and about through working shepherds and a working class man and woman who would care for the child, a housewife and a carpenter. From these unlikely foundations the message blew through the world creating quite a stir. It drove one ruler to the mass murder of children. It created a longing to learn more in the hearts and minds of kings. It stirred the hearts of a young couple just starting out in life, two people willing to live in faith that their young charge was someone special.

In this time of grief over the loss of so many little ones, we can pray their heart-breaking deaths will cause us to make dramatic changes in the mental health care system to prevent more tragedies in the future. The God of all will bring comfort to those who turn to him, including the family of the disturbed person who pulled the trigger again and again and again. Honoring the birth of one Child strengthens us to cope with the deaths of 20 beautiful children and the deaths of their protectors. The horror of Dec. 14 cannot be denied. Our hope and comfort lie not in the hands of a madman, but in the hands and heart of God.


This is from the mid-December issue of Happenstance Literary. Get your subscription today for only $12 at Through the end of December purchase a subscription for yourself and get one free for someone else. Go to this link to access a complimentary copy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Go and tell...

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2: 8-9

Terror. Awe. Are they the same? I’ve read commentaries that say the shepherds were in awe when the angel appeared and that being terrified and being in awe are similar. I’m not sure I agree. Awe is reverence. Awe is worship. Awe is respect. Terror is something else entirely. If I had been out in the middle of a field with nothing but a bunch of sheep and a bright light popped out of nowhere, my initial reaction would likely be terror. As a shepherd my next reaction would be concern for the sheep in my care. Were the sheep frightened by the light? The bible doesn’t say, but my thought is they would be a bellwether for the shepherds. If sheep – notoriously skittish animals – didn’t run madly away, perhaps this light was something wondrous rather than something fearful. And then the shepherds got the word. An angel shared with these lowly men of the field that something wonderful was happening in Bethlehem. A heavenly host appeared praising God, bringing light into the darkness. The shepherds felt compelled to go to Bethlehem and see for themselves. Afterwards they shared the good news, a message we continue to celebrate. It is a story worth telling.

Your comments are welcome, and if this message touches you, please share.