In a sermon at a church where my wife and I were once attending, the Pastor shared the meaning of “light” on top of the Christmas tree. He shared the story of Martin Luther in the woods, where he was walking through them at night one evening, terrified of the wild animals. But then he looked straight up through the trees and saw the brightness of the stars–the bright lights in the sky that the Lord had placed in order to help mankind see in the dark–he recognized the glory of God. In response to this awesome experience, Luther promoted the idea of putting the star on the top of the tree, as practiced today.
He then read from Luke 2:8-15: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’. When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’.”
What an awesome site this must have been! Have you ever wondered how you’d react if you’d been there among the shepherds? What would you do? How would you respond? Would you be full of joy, or “terrified”, as the scripture expresses the reaction of the shepherds?
Some of us have heard of the word being used for “terrified” as “Awe” for the Lord. But the Pastor suggested that here, it was being used to mean “fear” and being “afraid”. Either way, I’m going to take another angle on his next question. He asked, “Of all the people in town that evening, why did they appear to the shepherds?” Now, there are obviously many reasons for this, and the Pastor did go into some, but the angle he took was that the shepherds were the only ones awake at the time. They were working 3rd shift.
Interesting angle. But I’ve got another suggestion for an angle:
I grew up in and around Chicago. If you’ve ever been there, one of the first things you’ll notice is that lights are everywhere! Streetlights, skyline, headlights on the many cars…so the light from the stars are often very faint. In 2005, I moved to a small town in Kentucky. One night on the beachfront (man-made lake), there wasn’t a single light on, it was pitch black! Even in my Boy Scout-days, I had never experienced such dark land. All there was to help me see were the bright stars above. It was awesome! You could even see the edge of the Milky Way!
See, in Chicago, all the man-made (or false) lights overwhelm the lights in the sky…and they take our attention off the stars (or to where we can barely see them). I’m assuming the same was such in Bethlehem at the time…in town. But out in the fields, it was pitch black…nothing diverting their attention from the skies. So when the massively bright lights from God’s great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, it’s no doubt the shepherds saw them.
So what’s my angle as to why the Lord sent His angels to the shepherds? I believe one reason was because the townspeople were so distracted by the false lights that they couldn’t see God’s light. But to the shepherds, the lights in town were the dim ones. So when the Lord’s awesome light appeared, nothing distracted them from seeing God’s awesome and majestic glory.
- What’s the man-made/false light that’s distracting you from seeing the light from God’s glory?
- Luther started off terrified, but then after seeing God’s glory in the forest, he responded. After seeing God’s glory in the fields, the shepherds were terrified, but then responded. If you’ve seen the glory of God, were you terrified (whether in fear or awe)? How have you responded?
- Whether it be gifts, busyness, relationships, money issues, or other “false lights”, this Christmas season, may you push aside all that may be distracting you from seeing and responding to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!