It’s great taking a fresh look at something you know so well. In our Sunday School class yesterday we looked at the familiar Christmas story passage in Luke 2. The direction of the discussion led us to consider the scene in a new way, and from two different perspectives.
The shepherds had been sitting out in the fields, bored to the very core of their souls, and angels popped into their presence from out of nowhere. You can be sure that they didn’t see that one coming. Of course, there was the obligatory fear that grips anyone who finds themselves in the presence of those who are regularly in the presence of the Almighty. As the holy choir danced off to praise God in heaven, the shepherds ran across town to praise him on earth.
I don’t get the sense that they put a lot of brain power into figuring out why they were chosen for this blessing. Their excitement level was too high. I’m sure they would think about it later, but now it was too new – too much to absorb. The absurd contrast of the heavenly spectacle with the “sign” of the King in a manger probably didn’t occur to them (and maybe that’s why God chose them for this honor).
Something about their reaction was real enough to get everyone’s attention. Shepherds were among the lowest of the low. They were considered untrustworthy. So how is it that the people were amazed by their account of the story (Luke 2:18)? People aren’t amazed by things that are totally unbelievable. There was something about how these guys reacted to the Messiah that made it a credible story. I’m sure that’s partly why God chose them.
Mary is a different picture. In the midst of the raving shepherds, Mary is calm and quiet. It could be exhaustion from her recent labor (probably brought on by a very lengthy and bumpy donkey ride). Or, maybe she was at least slightly embarrassed. She’d just given birth among animals and put her baby in their feeding bowl. How many times has Joseph had to shoo the animals who were innocently trying to get a bite to eat? And then . . . guests? The angels didn’t even tell her they had invited these shepherds! If’ she had known, she would have at least done her hair. It’s enough to drive a woman crazy. But, in all of this, Mary is calm.
Our class wondered if Mary and Joseph, knowing that the Messiah would be born to her, had taken a look at Old Testament prophecy to see what their future would be. He’ll be born in Bethlehem? Why in the world would we go to Bethlehem? What kings will bow before him? How is God going to call him out of Egypt when we live in Nazareth? Lots of questions, but as each one is answered, they become even more sure that God is in control – which is the point of so much prophecy coming true in Him.
Mary isn’t less excited than the shepherds. They are just learning of something she’s known about for several months. When she ponders I think it’s adding wisdom to excitement. Taking a fresh look at God’s plan helps you to see the depth of it.
I bet the shepherds pondered later on: Wait a minute . . . God’s Messiah is in a manger? That’s weird. It’s a good thing though. If he were in the palace we wouldn’t have been able to get so near to him (cue light bulb graphic over their heads).
Take time to ponder these things tomorrow. Don’t let your excitement wane because the story of your God is too familiar. If you’ve lost the reaction of the Shepherds in this familiar story, maybe it’s time to graduate to the pondering of Mary. Take a fresh look at how God is revealing his plan of salvation in your life and thank him that he is in control.