Back to the Flocks
The shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything they had seen and heard...
And the next morning the one shepherd said to the others... "Hey, did you guys see that yearling this morning? Stupid lamb must have wandered off again last night.... ugh. Sheep gonna sheep, I guess. *Sigh* " And he went over the hillside to find the little troublemaker.
Ok, that part isn't in the bible. But I think something like that certainly could have happened.
Happy new year, friends. Although the 12 day season of Christmastide lasts through tomorrow, the Christmas hubbub is on the way out as we enter January (it seems like this happens every single year!).
I'm aware that the holidays can be very difficult for people. But so can re-entry into regular rhythms of life again: school schedules, work schedules, cold and dark out the door every morning. We celebrate the coming of Jesus with lights, rich foods, music, celebration, and candles (and sometimes a snowball battle). It's intended to be a spiritual high point as we remember with wonder God coming to earth. And then, just like that, it's Monday morning, and everyone is walking back to their flocks.
I find it interesting that Luke reminds us that the shepherds' future was still out on the hills- that they returned to their same flocks after seeing Jesus. They didn't just sit at the manger forever, nor did they make a dramatic career change. The Magi came and went too. Goodness, after a few scary years of living as refugees, so did Mary and Joseph and Jesus, as they resettled back in Nazareth for his whole childhood. After all those wild moments... life continued on.
I find this all to be an encouragement, since it's very easy to get discouraged by the "going back to normal" of this time of year. Even the eyewitnesses of Jesus' birth returned to fairly normal, (possibly) uneventful lives right after the big events, as far as we know.
What we don't know was how their experience of encountering God's presence in the flesh changed how they experienced those normal, mundane moments. We aretold they walked away filled with fresh faith and gratitude. And that's where I think the power is.
Over the years I've come to trust that when we meet Jesus in fresh ways, the real magic happens when we get back to normal and return to our flocks. The high points, the encounters, and the wonder are all beautiful. But as ambassadors of the love of God in the world, it's what we do with those moments that lasts. What areas are we now free to live with hope in the place of despair? What situations are we moved to offer a hand of kindness when otherwise we may have walked on by? What new peace will we have as we face an uncertain future? What forgivenesses will we extend now that we have been face to face with a God who will overcome any obstacle to help us move into a restored relationship?
Today might look like a normal Thursday morning the week after the holidays have ended. And yet we have just been reminded that Jesus has come for us. We have been face to face with the presence of God entering a broken world to redeem it. What are you going to do with that all that? How will it affect the mundane activities you'll do the rest of the week? How will it transform your interactions? There's great power in the events of that first Christmas. But there is even greater power in how God continues to be born in our lives each day that we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit, inviting her to give us fresh strength to walk in newness, grace, and compassion each day.
Jesus, may the story of your coming continue to spring to life in me today as I leave the manger and return to my flocks.
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