19 Dec 2014

Christmas through eyes - like yours and mine

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Christmas’?

Even as a pastor I find a little effort is required to focus on the Christ of Christmas as images of silly reindeer, a fat man in a red suit shouting ho-ho, jingles, bright lights and presents crowd into my view.

You too?

How did we get to see everything the same way? Big media. The loud, powerful, bright images and scintillating words have trained us over the years with the repetitive snapshots of buy-spend-eat Christmas.

But, the first Christmas, was a very different story.

It happened in a small sleepy suburb that was stirring only because some political order was given that made everyone pack a mule and muck some miles. Beyond this sudden influx of original inhabitants that needed to return to comply with a census, everything and everyone was going about business as usual; which wasn’t exactly a roaring city-scene.

I think if we step back from all that the media is yelling at us; if we stayed home just one night and refuse to turn to any form of media; maybe, just maybe, we can come closer to what Christmas is truly like. 

Maybe we can come closer and identify with some of these who were present when it all happened:

“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….Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God..” ~ Luke 2v8,9,13

I am guessing you never had an angel suddenly appear as you are marking those exam papers or reading your emails. I haven’t. But if I did, I would feel terrified as these shepherds did.

But what do we have on our greeting cards? Some meek, fairly frozen guys in robes, usually one cuddling a lil lamb. Pretty. Hallmark. Yes, it’s become hallmark; but it’s wrong. Those shepherds were anything but calm and relaxed!

First one angel, and then a whole lot of them – the whole night sky ablazed as heaven invaded earth-o-sphere and the usual blackness of the night sky is shining with light hitherto unseen. We don’t know how long this heavenly presentation lasted... but when it ended; the shepherds did what they felt compelled to: figure out a way to settle the sheep and go check out the news.

To a group of powerless, sheep-smelling men God chose to reveal the greatest event in humankind. (if our news networks got it today; what would become of it?). Simple shepherds who would be at a loss to find words to describe whatever they experienced except in the simplest of terms were privileged to receive the news. These shepherds, all shaken and awakened from their soporific states “spread the word …and all who heard it were amazed.”

Why cannot you and I share this such that those who hear it are amazed?

It’s become too familiar and not frightful enough. God came! We ought to get off our derriere to check it out and try to put it all in words!

For some of us, our spiritual awakening was indeed like the shepherds: we were going about our business and it got interrupted so big time we had to make a break with whatever we were doing in order to break the news.

But we find God-interruptions quite inconvenient. We wish they cease so we can return to ‘normal’; not realizing what we have isn’t normal by design at all. God breaks in to break us out of moulds that would stifle and eventually kill us. Like the shepherds, we need to find a way to check out the interruptions and find words to express what it all means.

Those shepherds probably remained shepherds. But the quiet as the sun sets, the grass, the night sky, even the sheep – have forever been touched by heaven. God can break in and what seems so mundane, ordinary and even, hopeless has forever been touched by glory. And their lowly jobs with those dumb, stubborn creatures? Well, you never know, angels show up.

And this openness to heaven, to God interrupting, to surprises, to angelic visitations lingered on in the church :

“do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares.” ~ Hebrews 13v2

Has 2014 sprung some surprises for you?
Did any of it feel just like heaven invading your earth-space? Is God wanting to share some news with you?
How can you live more ready for God-interruptions?
How can you be more careful about what feels 'normal' to you so you won't end up God?

 Next stop: Bethlehem

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