“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
This may be one of the most oft-quoted verses of the Christmas story. It may sound trite but it makes the holiday special for me. My need for peace abounds as the holiday approaches. I readily acknowledge my need for, “The light that shines in the darkness which can never extinguish it...The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone.” (John 1:5-9 NLT)
A few years back, I made a cute gift for the ladies in our Women's Ministry. It's called "The Christmas Nail." It looks like a tiny, old railroad spike. I enclosed a card with it that read, "This is to be hung on a sturdy branch, one near the trunk, one that will hold such a spike. The nail won't be known to all, only to the home that knows its significance. The Christmas tree is only but a foreshadow of the "Christ-tree" which only He could decorate for us, ornamented with nails such as this." Every year since, I remind my son, Andy, to put it on the tree where we can see it. It's one of the traditions that make these memories special for us. While we were decorating, we discussed whether or not it feels like Christmas.
What is it that makes Christmas“feel” special?
The holidays are always a mixed bag of emotions. These last few weeks have been extremely trying. From grieving my father’s recent passing to friends separated by illness, to broken relationships, there are many reasons to fight for the Christmas “feeling.” More and more, I find myself falling back on my usual way of handling things; thinking through rationally and trying to put sadness aside. Bittersweet memories come flooding in, intermingling with the joy and peace that also comes with the holiday. It’s a balancing act; enjoying making new memories while appreciating, even with sadness, the ones of yesterday.
One of the ways I work through the holiday blues is by reading through the scriptures, slowly and quietly meditating on them. The Christmas story in Luke 2 is iconic. It never fails to bring back the wonder and restore my soul. It makes me realize how much I need Jesus to break into my moments. Just imagine the scene. Shepherds tending to their sheep. Singing their lullaby to their flock under the starry night. Huddled together for safety. Then, the “Suddenly” happens. Bright lights burst forth, a heavenly being fills the sky announcing the greatest news to ever be told. More appear praising God in all their majesty.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Imagine the shepherds’ astonishment. Awestruck at how quickly they appeared then disappeared. Shocked and left to wonder. Coming to, then dropping everything to go look for this Savior. I can’t help but think how they were just going about their normal life. The very thing their entire nation waited for came at that moment. Unexpectedly. Light breaking in on these shepherds’ night. There are moments when our heavenly father comes and breaks into my life unexpectedly, bringing peace and comfort.
A starry night. Blazing light and an unexpected arrival. Shepherds caught by surprise. An announcement that was not just about a baby being born in a manger. Light had come into the world and they believed. In John 8:12-30, Jesus taught about Himself being the light that had entered the world. It says in verse 30, “As he was saying these things, many believed in him.” That is why Jesus came into the world. That is why He spoke these words saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) That is why angels appeared to shepherds and announced this good news. That’s why they rushed to see the babe in a manger. Here in John 8 as in Luke 2, Jesus Himself was inviting anyone who would, to have life in Him.
John Piper said it beautifully.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The life gives the light. Jesus is life and that life He shares with those who follow Him, gives them light. That is, we are dead and blind to the light until the life of Jesus is imparted to us by God’s Spirit, and then we see. The eyes of our hearts are opened, and divine light streams into our living spirits. And thus we have the light of life. The light that comes from new, spiritual, eye-opening life — the life that gives sight to the blind soul, eternal life giving eternal sight.”
Lord, open my eyes to the One who is the light that gives life. Give sight to my blind soul. A blindness that forgets you are always there, ready and waiting to bring peace, joy, hope, love. As the shepherds were left in wonder to seek the one who would become Messiah and Saviour, may we never lose our wonder, the feeling of Christmas.