It's 6 am on Christmas morning in a place that suddenly feels familiar at Christmas time. It could be that we have now spent 5 Christmases here in Loja or it could be that as Christmas commercialization hits this tiny city it brings with it a sense of the familiar. Cut out snowflakes, and fake snow dot the windows of shops and Christmas trees have become the norm.
So as a North American-looking "Christmas" sinks southward, I caught myself wondering why it just didn't feel like Christmas. I spent December trying to capture the awe and the majesty of the miracle birth of Christ. Advent readings (two per day), a specialized Christmas playlist, Scripture writing...
The truth is, I filled my days with that search for Jesus; but those same stories (read three times each day) were old and stale. My heart was old and stale even as a longed for the fresh beauty of the Christmas story.
In the midst of so many familiar things, something was missing and that missing piece began to replace longing with sadness. I kept wondering what was lacking. My heart was in the right place, my actions lined up with those desires... why wasn't I "feeling" it?
Two days ago, my scripture writing led me to a passage I have read an uncountable amount of times in my lifetime. It was the story of the shepherds and I found something there. Something new, something I hadn't noticed ever before.
Writing scripture is a new habit for me. I just began to do it this month and it has been an enjoyable part of my morning routine each day of December. It slows me down. It causes me to take in every single precious word and in that slowness I caught something new.
After the big event ended. The last angel had faded from the sky, the songs still ringing in the shepherds head, the instructions still freshly on their mind but before their arrival at the manger scene we get to see a little bit of humanity.
"Well, let's go. Let's go to Bethlehem and see this baby."
Said as if there was an option. Stating the obvious?
As I wrote it down it seemed jolting and out of place, this little quote from the shepherds. The proceeding scene is so filled with God's glory that the lowly shepherd is quite forgotten. A sky filled with a multitud of angels singing the most quoted song in history "Glory to God in the highest. Peace on Earth, good will to men."
Why do we need to know that the shepherds ended that glorious event by standing around and.. what? deciding if they were going to actually go to Bethlehem or... not???? Really?
They had to turn inwards momentarily, because they had a decision to make.
Of course they had just seen the unseeable and heard the unhearable. Of course God himself had just revealed Himself in a magnificent way with a promise to reveal himself further.
But those shepherds had to decide for themselves if they were going to take the risk of running off to Bethlehem.
I can imagine them huddled together.
"Well." says one of them.
"Well" says the other, because who can really speak when stunned by angel glory?
"So what do we do?" asks one.
And here it comes. Here comes the key.
"Let's go. Let's go see the baby. Let's go to Bethlehem."
Decision made. Now action can be taken as faith sinks in and response is given.
And even today, as God reveals His glory to mankind, we, like the shepherds must respond.
We can't just stare at the sky in awe of the angel's song. We have to come back down to earth. We have to talk it over. We have to give faith a practical outlet in response.
We have to take a pause in the advent readings, we have to take a pause in the sky gazing and awe of Christmas beauty to return to our here and now environment and make a real honest to goodness decision.
We have to stop doing all the GOOD THINGS so we can do the important thing...
Let's go. Let's go to Bethlehem and see God in human flesh.
Will you come with me?