In Luke 2 verse 16 we read, “So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.”
Think for a moment about these particular shepherds who were minding their own business, tending their flocks in the hills near Bethlehem, on a night that, unbeknownst to them, would change their lives forever. Imagine their shock and utter disbelief when out of nowhere an angel appears and suddenly they were encircled by the light of the glory of the Lord.
Though the angel tells them not to be afraid, likely they were terrified, beside themselves with fear. Yet they didn’t miss the moment. They listened and received the “good news of great joy.” After the angels departed, they were dazed and more than just a little bewildered by what had happened.
Yet one shepherd believed without question that God had chosen them to receive this extraordinary news. There was nothing tentative or fearful about this man of great, uncomplicated faith. For without a moment’s hesitation, he said to the others, “Let’s go to Bethlehem!”
This man was so much more than a mere shepherd. He was a man of God so excited about seeing the long-awaited Messiah, that he convinced the others that it was urgent for them to go and see for themselves whether the good news announced by the angels was really true.
In the time it took for the band of shepherds to travel the short distance to Bethlehem, we can easily imagine the questions with no answers prompted by their experience. Did they really see and hear angels? Why them? How could this be true? These were simple, yet courageous men whose hearts were filled with both anticipation and apprehension.
They believed that they were about to see and experience something and someone whose life would change the world for all time. For the shepherds, being in the presence of this holy child, the light of the world, surpassed even the experience of angels and a multitude of the heavenly host. For in this newborn infant, and in this shining moment they experienced what it means to live in light.
In Christmas light, we discover anew the gift of God’s love—the love that comforts our heart, the love that holds us close, the love that defeats every fear, the love that overcomes our grief. In Psalm 97 verse 11 we read, "Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” At this sacred, holy season:
Christmas light dawns when God’s love reaches into our heart with the mystery of divine comfort.
Christmas light dawns when the presence of God assures us that there is life beyond the death of our loved one.
Christmas light dawns in moments when our heart is strangely touched by joy.
Christmas light dawns when someone reaches out to us in love.
Christmas light dawns when we reach out to someone in love.
Christmas light dawns when we receive an unexpected blessing.
Christmas light dawns when we are a blessing to others.
God is with us at Christmas and always to comfort us, to redeem us, to restore us, to give us peace, and to hold us in the communion of saints with the one we have loved and now grieve.
As the light of God shines into our grief this Christmas, as children of light may we claim the gift of God’s love in the certainty that Emmanuel—the light and love of God’s eternal presence—is with us always.