Tuesday, December 20, 2011


When is the last time that you really experienced joy? A couple of weeks ago, as I was struggling with some discouraging things, I prayed that I would not miss the joy of this season. Little could I have imagined how God would answer that prayer. I came home one afternoon to find a package from Amazon. At first I thought it was something that I had ordered so I quickly opened it. What I found took me by surprise. It was a leather cover for a Kindle Fire. There was no note in the package, so I had no idea who sent it. What is even stranger is that I don’t own a Kindle Fire. Why would someone send me an expensive cover for something I don’t have? Later that week we had some people over for dinner and I shared the mystery with them. We all joked that I should start watching for the Kindle to show up. This past Monday we went out to do some shopping and enjoy the Christmas decorations. When we arrived back home there was a small pile of packages on our front step. When I picked them up I noticed that one was from Amazon. With trembling hands I opened it to discover a brand new Kindle Fire. There was a simple note enclosed: A gift of encouragement from a Christian Friend. I was overwhelmed. Later that day I discovered the identity of the sender. Since then my heart has been bubbling over with childlike joy and delight.
                A long time ago a group of shepherds huddled around a fire out in the field at night watching a flock of sheep. They had no great expectation for the night. They had done this hundreds of times. They hoped the night would be quiet and uneventful. Experiencing joy was probably not even on their minds. There wasn’t much joy for a shepherd. Because of the nature of their work, they tended to live on the fringe of society. Unable to keep all of the religious rules of the day, they were excluded from worship in the Temple. Ironically, these shepherds may well have been tending sheep that were destined to become sacrifices at the Temple. They could tend the sacrificial lambs but were not allowed to participate in the sacrifices themselves.
                Something unusual happened to change their lives that night. You could say that joy showed up literally out of the blue. While they were watching their sheep an angel of the Lord appeared to them with unbelievable news. At first the experience was anything but positive. When the angel appeared the shepherds were terrified. But the angel had come not to condemn them but to bring them joy.
                        But the angel said to them, "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 a 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." Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)
                At first the shepherds could not believe what was happening. Why would God send such a message to us? This must be a mistake! But it was no mistake. God made sure that they knew that this gift of joy was for them. After the angel left them they were so filled with joy that they had to act. They left their sheep and rushed to Bethlehem to find the baby.
                Can you imagine how startled Mary and Joseph must have been when these shepherds showed up at the stable? Their excitement had to be both surprising and contagious. As their story tumbled forth Mary and Joseph found themselves caught up in this new joy. With wide-eyed awe the shepherds gazed upon this newborn King.
                One of them may have suddenly remembered the sheep. As if awakening from a dream they hurried from the stable and headed back to the field. But they could not contain their joy. They had received the greatest gift of their lives. They had been eye-witnesses to the birth of the Messiah. Everyone they passed was bombarded by their enthusiastic account of the night’s events.
                Much of the Christmas season focuses on giving and receiving gifts. These tangible expressions of love do bring joy, for a time. But the greatest joy is to be found in meeting the Savior. Much later, Jesus was talking with his disciples when he gave them these words of encouragement. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11 (NIV) The true joy of Christmas doesn’t last for just a season. It lasts for all of eternity. 

No comments:

Post a Comment