The Christmas narratives are so beautiful and have become such a part of our collective consciousness and memory that we can almost recite them without effort. And, sadly, often without thought. Some things are pretty obvious and clearly evident. There are also thoughts and ideas which encourage a thoughtful person to look just a bit further. Try to return with me to the night when the little coos and cries and baby sounds of the Infant Jesus were first heard outside the Inn in the little town of Bethlehem. Go outside that scene and see if you can capture in your mind’s eye some of the surprise and excitement when the angels first burst upon the quiet night out beyond the edge of town. Luke tells that part of the “old, old story” and we pick up his account:
Luke 2:8 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
13 “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’
SUDDENLY. . . As I observed in the last post, that’s one of the words/ideas that caused me to stop and think a bit. I’m aware it is ‘just a thought.’ It’s an adverb which describes an action that is about to happen or be taken: Quickly, unexpectedly, and decisively…The angel’s appearance happened in a way for which the shepherds simply were not prepared. They were startled, nearly out of their wits. When Luke says the shepherds were ‘sore afraid,’ you can almost hear their hearts pounding. So bad it actually hurt.
Even when the ‘message’ may not have been as eternally important as the angel’s announcement of The Advent, I’m sure you’ve had something happen so unexpectedly you were caught completely off guard.
In several cases about which we may read in Scripture, people were going about their daily tasks. They weren’t just “sitting and hoping and waiting and prayin’. They were dealing with “ordinary” things. The shepherds were caring for their sheep on the night Jesus was born. That was their job. Beyond that, it was “who they were.” My guess is not one of them had ‘angels’ on his mind. The Bible has a story about Gideon (he of the valiant three hundred) and his encounter with the mighty Midianites. When the angel appeared to him suddenly, he was threshing his wheat quietly, secretly for fear that he’d be discovered. It’s kind of amusing, in that light, to hear how the angel addressed him: “Hello, you mighty man of valor.” Gideon knew he was anything but that. A coward, perhaps. Certainly not a candidate for the ‘Soldier of the Year’ award in any Jewish army. His mission, his entire character, his destiny. . . and that of his nation…were changed, suddenly. Very suddenly. He was, in fact, never the same after that meeting.
The Bible warns against false doctrine and false teachers. It warns us against stupid naivete, and yet it encourages and expects us to become as “little children.” One of the messages of Christmas, at least in my mind, is that you should be prepared. You should remain hopeful and expectant. You never know when something might happen of eternal consequence. When God is involved, you should expect the unexpected. As long as God is alive, there is reason for hope, and the possibility and probability of the miraculous. I conclude that if the birth of Christ means anything at all, it teaches us we should keep Hope alive. Something new and wonderful might just happen at the time you least expect it!
There was also the “Great Gettin’ Up Morning.” The day the Son rose from the grave. He’d said He was going to do it, and when He did what He’d told them He was going to do, no one was prepared. They did NOT believe the Resurrection had actually taken place. Luke says the disciples “believed not for joy.” In other words, they said, “That’s just too good to be true!” That was THE DISCIPLES’ reaction when something happened so suddenly. It seemed as if an avalanche of information tumbled down too quickly for their minds to process.
And when it did, noting was ever the same again.
I’m not much good at “spinning yarns.” It just seems to me that the way this took place. . .so suddenly . . .is strong encouragement for us to NEVER give up hope. NEVER give in to despair. God has not lost your address. He knows your name and where you live. That fact is nowhere more evident than what took place that first Christmas! God is not unaware of the burdens you carry, or the problems with which you’ve been wrestling. Before Moses got called back to Egypt, after years of absence and exile on the backside of the desert, God told him: “I’ve heard the groaning of my people.”
I really don’t have an “axe to grind,” or a point to prove in my approach to Scripture. I’m simply trying to be as objective an observer as is possible for me, view what happened, and then try to draw some reasonable conclusions based on my observations and the information gathered
In Matthew 24:27 Jesus was quoted as having said: “For as the lightning comes out of the east and shines even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be.” Scripture teaches that He will return. It also says no man…NO MAN… NO ONE knows the day or hour of that event. But a couple things seem clear to me on that subject. One is that CHRIST WILL RETURN. No one knows when. But another thing I notice, is this: when the event does occur, it will happen SUDDENLY. Lightning quick. You don’t want to wait until lightning strikes before you take sensible steps to prepare for such an event. And you sure don’t want to try to outrun it! In speaking of the same event (Return of Messiah), the apostle Paul said it would occur “in a moment; in the twinkling of an eye.”
I wondered how long a ‘moment’ is. How long do you think it would take an eye to “twinkle?” When we talk about milliseconds, nanoseconds and microseconds, that means: it (The Return) will happen quite quickly, to say the very least. I won’t have time to bat my eyes, much less pack my bags
Suddenly. It seems to me that reason and common sense would say the better part of wisdom would be “be ready to go” (for in such an hour as you think not, The Son of Man will return).
God is so patient and so kind. His mercy is everlasting. But He is also decisive, and when the time for action arrives He acts. Quickly. Suddenly. If He has something special planned for me, for one, I want to be ready and open.
When I’m engrossed in something of great interest to me, I can become oblivious to things beyond my focus. I’ve been known to lose track of time. Once, when I was a young minister, I was digging into something in my study that had me completely engrossed. My family knew where I was, but before I realized it, the sun started peeping above the horizon and in sleepy wonder I wrote:
Sitting by my window, On the brink between yesterday and tomorrow
I watched in wide-eyed wonder as darkness scampered
to hide from the rising sun.
The grey came this way, drawing in its wake a trail of blue.
Birds chirped in concert, cheering another unfolding miracle;
And a brand new day burst upon me!
Isn’t that the way things happen sometimes? You’re working on a problem. Thinking. Meditating. Letting time pass. And, suddenly, it comes clear to you. It dawns on you. It’s like a light switch is turned on, and you finally “get it.” Perhaps when you’d all but given up hope.
It’s close to Christmas. If your heart and mind are open, what a wonderful time for God to burst in suddenly, unexpectedly, and unannounced once again with the message of “peace on earth, good will toward men!”
God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student ~donkimrey
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