GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR BLESSED SAVIOR
TEXT: Luke 2: 1-20
Dearly Beloved By The Christ Child:
My parents always told me: “Patience is a virtue.” They also said: “Jesse, wait on the Lord.” That’s my name, Jesse, by the way. You’d think that at age 25, taking care of sheep night and day, I would have learned both lessons. But no. I craved excitement, I wanted to feel important and BE someone. Alas, taking care of a flock was pure boredom. Every day was the same, every night was cold sleep amid a shuffling flock of sheep under a black sky. I lived just outside of Bethlehem, the old hometown of my namesake: Jesse the father of the famous David. I craved to be like David, important and well known. Instead, I was simply: Jesse the Shepherd. But then everything changed….
It was getting close of mid-night. All the shepherds could tell time by how the sheep settled down more around that time. We were gathered around the last of the flickering fire. I’ll tell my story of what happened next in the words of St. Luke whom I originally recounted them to. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Terror is an understatement. We jumped out of our skin! God’s angel appeared to me and the others! It happened in an instant. The whole sky lit up. Strangely the sheep and our dogs remained silent—awed by it all. Because we were all shepherds who were just as sinful as the next person and always thought the worst—terror seized us.
But then, the angel spoke to us with words of unmatched comfort that instantly calmed our fears: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” It struck me that not even the original Jesse, nor his son David, had an angel talk to them directly like this. I was blest after all! I was important, after all. They had had the Messiah promised to them, but that was 1000 years ago. I was learning the meaning of God’s patience right here, right now. And by the angel’s own words, I was told exactly where and how to find Him!
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” Luke captured all the amazing emotions I felt at that sight in those matter-of-fact words. (He was a physician, a man of learning after all.) 1000’s of unseen angels shed their invisible cocoons and all filled the sky! They also glowed, brighter than the sun, but differently. For this was God’s eternal light. We were bathed in their light of grace. And that light was pulsating with their heavenly hymns of praising the Holy Trinity! They gave Him glory for bringing us God’s eternal peace in the form of the Christ child, true man and true God joined together to give His favor to fallen, forgotten humans, like me. Ah, it started to sink in: I really was blest and important after all. I really was famous because Jesus’ favor was obviously directed to and at me….
Just like that the angels disappeared in the flash and the dark night returned. None of us could have dreamed this, because we all saw it. It left me so flushed with excitement that I was the first to blurt out: “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Yes, we were leaving the sheep, but it was obvious God would take care of them in this instance. So, we all hurried off and soon found “Mary and Joseph, and the Baby, lying in a manger.” It was an amazing sight. God’s Son in the form of a Baby. God’s Son seemingly defenseless—yet we all knew better. God’s love was lying right before us. I was forward enough to pick Him up, and He smiled at me. Mary and Joseph didn’t seem surprised or concerned either at our appearance, or our tale of what had happened among the sheep. They told us that God’s plan of human salvation was outlined to each of them, too, and of the angel Gabriel announcing it to them. They both had learned the irresistible power of God’s love.
Well, it was getting very late and the sheep needed us.—Just like all humans needed Christ to tend to His flock, us. With reluctance we left them in body, but not in spirit. How could we? How could I? So, literally, for the rest of my earthly days: “we spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” We also went back to Bethlehem whenever we could to learn more and bask in His love more. We did this for over a year until the Holy Family left Bethlehem after the Magi’s visit to escape evil king Herod’s bloodlust. When you have experienced never-ending joy that fills your whole being and gives you an eternal purpose—you simply cannot stay away!
This is not my story, Jesse’s story. This is simply what I saw, heard, and felt. No, this is Christ’s story. This is heavenly truth played out before my eyes. And because God graciously used St. Luke to interview me and write it down, tonight it is once more played out before you. So, like me, you’re also blest by the Baby Jesus. Amen
THE peace of God which….
Pastor Thomas H. Fox