“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’
(Luke 2:8-14, New King James Version)
It is Christmas Day. Let earth receive her King.
No more countdowns. It is upon us. How eagerly we prepare for this day. We pull out all the stops. For some the sky is the limit.
I floored it this year. I braved the crowds. I was all over the place. I hit the stores between opening time and lunch on a weekday; and if I had the energy was back there between 2 and 4 p.m. Weekends, I stayed home. I blew my budget. But I got it all done in record time. Other years, I’m out there running just a few paces behind Santa Claus. I’m exhausted!
Andy Rooney said: “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”
In the wake of the excitement of opening gifts, we are left with mountains of paper wrappers, ribbons, empty boxes and broken candy canes. When my children were little, I was super organized, picking up, sweeping and putting away. Garbage bags stood close by ready to collect the mess. Today I see the chaos and become nostalgic.
It goes so fast. Before you know it, the season is over. And suddenly the children are not children anymore. Another generation has stepped in and taken over.
You feel both detached and still a part of the festivities. And you take it in, all of it, with an air of quiet contentment.
In my mind’s eye, however, I see the empty spaces; and I can’t ignore the painful tug that pulls at my heart and tells me, nothing is the same.
Writer Augusta E. Rundel describes Christmas as “that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance—a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”
I don’t know about you but I always get a sense of letdown after the frenzied hype. Perhaps it’s because we allow ourselves to be swept away by today’s one-size-fits-all version of the holidays, to a point where we almost miss the essence of Christmas.
It has become too easy to ignore the core and true meaning of this holy day. The gaudy noisy trappings around us have taken us so far afield that we have forgotten Jesus is the main event.
We live in perilous times. Our deepest values and convictions are being shaken, challenged and threatened. Suddenly our core beliefs are mocked, what used to be wrong and ugly is glamorized, applauded. Heinous crimes and debased ideas have become trivial and commonplace.
We have drifted away from what matters most. We are lost, confused, without a compass. Brave voices urge us to take a stand. But my heart tells me we must do so on our knees.
In the spirit of the season, let us be the shepherds awakened by the host of angels on that holy night. We stand at the edge of the stable. Dare we enter? Do we recognize what we behold? What gifts do we bring our Savior? What do we say?
I asked several people.
“I would bring him swaddling blankets and oh, a chair for Joseph. He is always standing.”
“I will give the clothes I am wearing to keep the baby warm at least for the night. I can’t think of anything I could give him that would be King-worthy.”
“I’d check out of my room and get them out of the stable.”
Someone suggested a mug of piping hot Starbucks coffee for each shepherd. Then in a more serious vein she said: “I guess I wouldn’t know what to say. What do you tell a king?”
Her twin was solemn: “My gift would be a remote control to fast-forward or delete the hatred and stupidity of the world.
“But I know that’s not the way the story goes.
“I would enter the stable. Maybe sing a little? ‘What Child Is This’ seems appropriate.
“And I’d whisper in baby Jesus’ ears: Remember me? I am the guy who sits in the back of the church. Thank you for being patient with me. I am just a work in progress. Happy birthday, Jesus.”
Here’s a verse I remember learning in kindergarten.
“What can I give you, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I’d give you a lamb.
If I were a wise man I’d do my part.
So what shall I give you? I’ll give you my heart.”