Summary: The shepherds story gives us the good news of the presence of joy.
The Presence of Joy
Most people in America are familiar with this passage, even if they rarely crack open a Bible. These verses from Luke have even entered the popular culture, through Linus’ famous speech in the Charlie Brown Christmas video.
Every December since 1965, (That’s 40 years!) in between televised scenes of the Grinch slithering around Whoville, and George Bailey being saved by Clarence the angel just as he’s about to jump off the Bedford Falls bridge, and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer running around the North Pole with Herbie (an elf who wants to be a dentist), we have Linus, who discovers the true meaning of Christmas in the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 2.
8 That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. 11 Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. 12 This is how you will know him: You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box.”
13 Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying:
14 “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.”
15 When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a feeding box. 17 When they had seen him, they told what the angels had said about this child. 18 Everyone was amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them. 20 Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything they had seen and heard. It had been just as the angel had told them.
The presence of Joy
Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is temporary. It lasts just about as long as the wrapping paper does on Christmas morning. Sometimes it doesn’t last even that long.
That’s because happiness is based on people, places, and things.
People can change and occasionally they let you down. Places seem more permanent but somehow they don’t last either. Anyone who has tried to go back to a place and recapture a moment knows that it can’t ever really be done. You capture the shadow of times past but never the essence. And things don’t create permanent happiness either. Things break. Parts get lost. They wear out or just lose their luster.
What was your best Christmas Gift ever as a kid? Mine was a Kenner Girder and Panel set #9. It was the top set with an electric motor, pulleys, and everything you needed to build a 12 story building with an elevator. I was so happy – for about a week. That’s long for a toy.