Monday, December 11, 2023

The Shepherds’ Christmas Story


(Smoky Mountain Christmas lights at Dollywood)

“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. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

-Luke 2:8-20 (NIV)
One of my favorite Christmas stories occurs in the book of Luke when an angel appears to a group of shepherds in the field on Jesus’s birthday. Terrified, the angel proclaims, “Do not be afraid.”

I feel slightly more tired than usual at the end of a calendar year. However, I seek to stop and treasure these precious moments to remember the most important holiday in a Christian’s life – the birth of Jesus! With Christmas, hope in the form of a baby miraculously arrives through Mary with a virgin birth. 

For the shepherds, heaven opens. A host of angels display their majesty in praise for the celebration of this majestic occasion. Some days, I wish I could view this glimpse of heaven for the hope instilled into the souls of these chosen shepherds. Like these chosen few, I would shout and spread the Good News to close relationships and strangers alike. 

Amidst being blinded by worry and angst in an exhausted state, I try to remember three evident truths observed in the shepherds’ Christmas story.

1.) Since the Messiah was born this evening, this angel brings Good News and Great Joy in the darkness of night.

While watching over respective herds at nighttime, I imagined these shepherds could only see what fires, stars, and small lamps shined upon. Heavenly hosts decided to brighten the evening with an orchestra of praise. If we praise God in the bleakest moments, we shall experience the joy of His presence through these tribulations. 

2.) In a moment of fear, God provided peace with the hopeful words – “Do not be afraid.”

Fear can transcend joy if anxious thoughts take over. Negative thoughts in the form of fear resemble a disease. One negative thought manifests another negative thought. The same is true for positive thinking. Positive thoughts lead to more positive thoughts, including when bravery overcomes fear. Christians must heed the words of angels. God provides courage to face life and move forward with the Holy Spirit as our advocate, even when tragedy strikes. While some walk around the storm, Christians can walk through the eye of the storm without angst, for we are protected by the praises of angels.  

3.) Treasure the best moments of your life in your heart and memory.

Mary stopped on many occasions to reflect upon these precious happenings. If we stop in the madness of a busy routine, stillness sparks the treasured blessings observed in simple things. The smile of a child, the ability to dance to your favorite tunes, or watch your favorite Christmas movie with family warrant giving thanks. Gratitude does not begin and end with Thanksgiving Day. To see the goodness instead of overarching worries, the noted treasures of life remain evident today and every day thereafter.

These three observed truths stir the Christmas Spirit in my soul. Instead of the focus on me, these recent Christmas holidays are about serving Lisa, my wife, and my two children, Annabelle and Jace. If my family remains safe and healthy, I must admit the angels are singing as guardians on this year's celebration of Jesus's birthday. Like Mary, I am confident the shepherds treasured these memories in their hearts as they glorified and praised God for all the marvelous events they witnessed. 

(This is my beautiful family on Thanksgiving Day. It was the first time we hosted a guest for a holiday in our Knoxville home.)

(Lisa and I visited the Festival of Trees on two occasions in Knoxville, Tennessee. It is a yearly fundraiser for East Tennessee Children's Hospital.)

(Annabelle really enjoys playing on the nature playgrounds at Ijams Nature Center, including the kid cabins.)

(Lisa and I enjoyed a full date day at Smoky Mountain Christmas, an event with millions of lights and decorations at Dollywood.)

(Carolers sang multiple Christmas hymns in front of this church at Dollywood.)

(This grist mill at Dollywood provides a picturesque Christmas scene. The mill is famous for making cinnamon bread daily.)

(This is one of the most festive decorated houses in Knoxville, located in the Gray Eagle Springs neighborhood.)

(Lisa loves grocery stores, and Jace savors cart rides through Krogers just like his mama.)

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