Imagine the shepherds standing watch over their flocks by night. I picture a couple of sheep quietly grazing, the rest of the flock sleeping off to the side. Two shepherds sit around a fire; another one nods off, his hand and head propped up on his cane.
Total tranquility. Until. . . .
The Bible says these guys were “terribly frightened” when the first angel showed up. Can’t blame them – Luke 2:9 says “the glory of the Lord shone around them.”
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, soon an army of angels appeared. A rebellious and hopeless world finally had the solution to sin: “Peace, goodwill toward men,” the angels proclaimed.
The shepherds were told to look for a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger in the city of David. He had come! God had sent the long-awaited Messiah! Needless to say, the shepherds took off for said manger with great haste, “can-you-believe-ing” each other the whole journey.
“Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:17,18).
But some time later, after all the excitement settled down, I bet the shepherds hit a slump. They were probably the first to experience post-Christmas depression – and it has been happening to the best of us ever since. . . .
Author and pastor Steve Brown said that post-Christmas depression settles into our lives because we discover that our expectations of the season were not met. Brown recalled the year that he even got everything he asked for, but afterward, he still experienced “the blahs.”
We put a lot of planning and expectation into the Christmas season. That is what advent is – spending four weeks of Sundays mentally, spiritually, emotionally preparing for Jesus’ arrival.
Maybe, if the shepherds didn’t have to go back to the fields and could have stayed to watch Jesus grow up, the angels’ message might not have faded from their mind’s eye so easily.
But sooner or later, we all pack up the Christmas lights and bright colors, and step back into regular life.
This year, look ahead: Celebrate Advent with an eye on February or June. God works things in seasons (Ecclesiastes 3), and He wants us to find joy in the journey, not just in the destination. We know that Jesus’ birth is only half the story: Without Christ's perfect blood shed for our sins on Good Friday, and His Resurrection at Easter, Christmas is an incomplete story. We can experience today that peace and goodwill promised by the angels.
This year, set your Advent expectations for all year-round: Prepare to meet God in a personal way each day through His Scripture. If you have been meaning to read the Bible regularly, start now. If you have been reading daily, remind yourself why. Christmas is when we remember that God reached out to us, so that we could spend the rest of the year reaching out to Him. Happy Advent!
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