In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 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. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Christmas is in danger of passing me by this year.
Studying for an MA sometimes makes you throw out the baby with the bathwater or, in this case, the baby with the manger.
For many reasons I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to really ponder this passage, along with Mary, and to share some thoughts on the theme of adoration.
Firstly, adoration, according to the OED, means ‘the action or an act of displaying profound reverence or respect; worship of God…’
Adoration is very much a doing word.
Adoration requires action and in this passage we see a variety of actions at different stages.
The shepherds’ first action is to respond in fear to the angels, even though they are sharing ‘good news of great joy’: the gospel message of Christ. Maybe the first ever public declaration of the gospel message explicitly proclaiming Jesus as the long awaited Messiah? And how do the shepherds choose to respond? They leave the sheep and run off to find out what this is about – they investigate the claims of the angels for themselves and respond in worship: glorifying and praising God. Thus, we see that from his first hours on earth, Jesus called people to come and follow him.
Our Shepherd called shepherds to adore him.
Though she had been carrying the child for 9 months, we get a glimpse of Mary’s adoration of her child in this small part of the unfolding story. Undoubtedly, she is tired and confused – she has given birth to the Son of God and yet, here he is lying in a feeding trough. Through the shepherds, God speaks into her heart in these moments:
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”
Mary chooses to not let these precious moments and messages pass her by. Rather, she ponders: reflects, meditates and wonders as the voice of God ministers to her weary heart:
Mary, do not be afraid.
Mary, be at peace. You have been shunned by society, but this child is good news for all people, including you. Keep trusting.
Mary, your child is the Messiah – the hoped for and long awaited one.
Mary, you may not understand, but I had planned his birth in this way and in this place.
Mary, give me the glory, for I have done this. Adore your child, the God the Son on earth, for he brings peace and hope to all who will trust in him.
I have to admit, I feel a bit like the shepherds at times. The Christmas season comes and goes in a similar manner to being flash-mobbed by an angel choir.
Do you ever get that feeling?
I hope this year I take time to adore Christ like Mary did; to let the truths of Emmanuel take root in my heart; to ponder and consider what “God with us” really means for this world and for me.
Adoration may be a simple, childlike wonder. But I don’t want to lose it as I grow older. Christmas will always hold a great mystery:
God became one of us.
He lived among us.
He ate and drank.
He laughed and cried.
He healed the sick and comforted the broken hearted.
And then he died for our sins, bearing the wrath of God so we could be forgiven, and rose from the dead so that we can be restored to a right relationship with God.
Why, oh why? I often ask myself.
So that I would have the option of choosing the True Shepherd, the one who assures me that I shall not want, that he shall carry me and keep me from straying.
Like Mary, do not let the words of God wash over you this Christmas or this very day – treasure them and ponder them in your heart. The promises of God are the greatest gift to us on earth. His promises are our future hope and our inheritance through Jesus Christ. Cheesy perhaps, but it really is the best Christmas present to know we have a home with our Heavenly Father.