Summary: A Christmas message. Most people have no problem getting up for Christmas but what about the day after? This message is based on Luke 2:20 from what I see as the shepherds return to "normal" after God has broken into their lives.
"It's A Wonder-filled Life"
Luke 2:20 "Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them."
Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" is, by far, my all time favorite Christmas movie. George Bailey finds out that even amid hardships, disappointment and unrealized dreams life can be wonderful when God breaks through. It took a clumsy angel to open his eyes. But once they were opened, George Bailey would never see life the same again.
It took angels from on high to open to the eyes of shepherds, tending to flocks by night. They were taken to the manger where they'd find God's Son wrapped in swaddling cloths. It was an unforgettable & defining night for these night shift workers. Their appearance at this stable has been captured on Hallmark cards and replicated in Nativity sets for all ages.
Luke 2:20 serves as the waning moments of the shepherds time in the spotlight of the history's epic event. Soon the light would fade to black and they would become just a part of the supporting cast in the Advent.
Luke leaves us with the sense that while they may exit the stage, they are not returning to endless nights of a monotonous existence. That their going out is much different than their coming too. That they are renewed with a greater, fuller and much more wonderful life.
Note these three things intimated about the shepherds on the day after their God-moment encounter:
I. The Shepherds' Joy Lasted More Than a Day.
A) Most people are simply caught up in a moment, for a moment!
Plenty of activities, lots of festive music, the smell of pine & baked cookies, the lights, gifts & cards, gathering with friends & family and maybe even fresh fallen snow that blankets the landscape. Perhaps there's a kids Christmas pageant or a candlelit Christmas eve serve to attend. It's easy to get caught up in the moment of Christmas.
But what happens the day after Christmas when your loved ones get back in their cars and head home, and the tree comes down and the Christmas carols cease and the wrapping is taken to the curb with the trash? That's when people suffer the so called Christmas blues. The moment of joy comes and then it's gone.
B) God wants to grant us a lifetime of joys, not just moments.
That's the way it went down for the shepherds. They celebrated the birth of Christ but didn't stop living. They had responsibilities and routines that awaited them. But notice that in their return to the everyday world that still had that special moment in their hearts. It lingered into their day-to-day lives! This is the way it is when we have a profound encounter with God- the moment becomes a way of life.
II. The Shepherds' Joy Wasn't Hindered By Life Circumstances.
A) We must reject the notion that joy is only possible when life improves.
Some people suffer from "destination disease," the belief that when I attain ideal circumstances, then I will find true happiness. If I find the right person, move into that dream home, own that luxury car or get that coveted position at work, then I will be happy. Those people live under the delusion that joy is found when the perfect environment is created.
B) Shepherds Found Joy to Live on Despite Their Life Situation
No doubt Mike Rowe, of TV show "Dirty Jobs," would have aired an episode on shepherds if he was around back then. They dedicated their lives to tending sheep full time. They lived among them, put their lives at risk for them and even smelled like them. Shepherding was considered one of the most lowly occupations. It was a necessary job but certainly not a desirable one.
Still look at these men who return to their work. Are they whining or complaining? Do they have a hint of resentment that they have to go back to the daily grind among these filthy animals? None!
They're able to sing in the sheepfold and out in the pasture because their joy is not tied to their circumstances but is found in the One who stooped to where they lived to honor them first among men with the Good News. In fact, this encounter with the Good Shepherd would bring richer meaning to their daily task.
III. The Shepherds' Joy Was Tough To Contain
A) They continued to erupt in worship as they were "glorifying and praising God." It wasn't a one-day activity but instead became an on-going behavior for the shepherds.
B) The overflow of worship came out of a definite personal experience. They were not celebrating, based on the Divine encounter that their parents or grandparents had. Verse 20 tells us it came out of the "things that they had heard and see." This was their own One-to-one experience with Christ! When you have a true meeting with the Holy One, you can't help but worship! It becomes a part of you that must live on well beyond the defining moment.