It’s that season again. You see the bright lights and hear the carols as you walk in malls. My six-year-old foster daughter is especially excited as she receives gifts from my church friends and family. We have a tiny tree at home and her presents are placed there. Each morning, she’ll ask me if it’s time to open her gifts. And each time, I reminded her it’s still too early. You see, she’s super excited because Christmas is a time for her to receive beautifully wrapped gifts and she’s reminded that she’s loved.
As pastors, this is a busy time for us as we have many programs and preaching opportunities. In the midst of our busyness and shopping for presents, I find myself feeling jaded at times by the festivities. Perhaps it’s the stress of trying to fulfil expectations or the over-commercialization of Christmas. I’ve even asked myself if I have stopped being excited by the greatest event in history.
Do you feel the same way as me? That sometimes, we are no longer as excited by the story of the birth of Jesus? That we have somehow stopped experiencing the miracle of miracles? Somehow, have we failed to be excited by the reason behind the season?
On 5 June 1945, people around the world slept through the night with fear and hunger, not knowing when World War II will ever end. On the next day, the Allied forces stormed into France in the beaches of Normandy, beginning the end of the war. On 10 Sept 2001, people slept soundly around the world, but woke up to a different world and the aftermath of terrorism and gave 9-11 a new meaning. On 25th December 2004, millions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, and as far away as Africa slept through the night, after a nice dinner and perhaps unwrapping all the Christmas presents, but woke up the next day with 250 thousand dead, missing and never to be found.
Those nights brought radical changes to the world. But people around the world failed to notice it. One such night happened 2000 years ago. Sadly, many people in the midst of their busyness failed to notice that this is the greatest miracle event of all times – the birth of Jesus Christ.
Not so the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). These were ordinary people. This was how God chose to first reveal the birth of His only Son. In fact, they are outcasts, ceremonially unclean. In fact, God consistently chooses to reveal His purposes and use people who are most ordinary or outcasts like tax-collectors, slaves, prostitutes, the lame, the blind, the diseased, and yes, even ordinary shepherds.
And what were their responses? Scripture tells us that “…when they saw it (Jesus), they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them… And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (v17; 19).
As we approach Christmas, we need to re-experience the birth of Christ and see through the eyes of shepherds who were not asleep but were keeping watch by night. We can’t encounter God and remain spiritually status quo. We can’t remain the same. We can’t experience Christmas without being affected by Christ. We can’t experience Christmas without being excited by Christ.
We can be excited by opportunities to preach, but we must be more excited by the proclamation of the Good News. We can be excited by bright lights, but we must be more excited by the Bright Morning Star (Rev 22:16). And yes, like my foster girl, we can be excited by the gifts, but we must be more excited by the greatest Gift God gave to us.
We can’t experience Christmas without being excited by Christ. May your Christmas be filled with this excitement and your excitement will excite many more as you herald the Good News!
Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!