Surprised by Joy

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Luke 2:8-20 describes three startling and unexpected visitations. First the shepherds were visited in the most spectacular and awe-inspiring way by a whole heavenly host of angels who proclaimed to them the savior’s birth, and then the shepherds in turn visited Bethlehem to see this sight for themselves and to tell anyone who would listen what had been told to them concerning the child they’d found in the manger. One gets the impression from reading this account that the news of Jesus’ birth, whether sung by the angels or spread all over town by the wild-eyed shepherds, was such a rare and excellent happening that the news of it would have burst from their frames if it could have found no other escape than the feeble door of their lips.

However, if all we took away from these verses was delight at the surprise appearance of the angelic choir, or the excited haste of the shepherds to authenticate what they had been told that would be like celebrating a fine wrapping job over and above the gift it contained. The third startling and unexpected visitation, the one that really mattered, was, of course, Jesus Himself.

I wonder though, what if the shepherds of Luke 2 could peer into our day as we have been allowed a glimpse into theirs? What would they think of all the songs and sermons and testimonies that have gone out like so many ripples of grace from that first splash of Christmas? Or would they marvel at our silence even more than we marvel at the singing of the angels? “How could anyone keep this to themselves?” they might wonder.