The day after – the shepherds’ perspective

28 12 2011

For every holiday or major event there is the day after.  It is a time to catch your breath and reflect on how things went.  Life starts to go back to normal.  Decorations come down and we get back into our regular routines.  As I reflected on that, it made me pause and think about the shepherds from Luke 2.  They were taken completely by surprise.  It was not a holiday for them.  They were working the night shift like they normally did when suddenly an angel appeared and told them it was an incredibly special night.  The Messiah had arrived!  Then, there was a large group of angels praising God.  They went to where the angel told them to go and then told everyone they could about what happened.  (Luke 2:8-20)

If the shepherds had attended services at the temple, they would have known one day a Messiah would come.  They would have anticipated a renewed kingdom and images from the days of King Solomon would have been in their mind.  Roman occupation would soon be over.  What an exciting time.  Then, a year went by and no change.  Two years and life was still the same.  Ten, twenty years, nothing significant changed, life went on.  Finally, after thirty years the baby they had seen in the manger starting doing something.  However, the message he was sharing was far different than what they were expecting.  He wasn’t building an army or preparing to overthrow Rome.  After three years he was executed.  His follower’s started telling stories of him rising from the dead but that would have just sounded crazy.

I wonder if they doubted.  They had seen the angel and saw exactly what the angel told them they would see.  However, everything else pointed to this being some sort of mistake.  If they did see Jesus when he began his earthly ministry, then they may have understood.  Being shepherds would have meant they were looked down upon by most people.  Jesus always had a special place for people everyone else rejected.  That would have given them a special connection to Jesus.  I wonder if he told them it was good to see them again.  Even then I think it would have been hard to grasp what God was doing.

It is a great reminder for all of us.  We should enjoy and appreciate when we have experiences that show God’s work in our lives.  However, our hope rests in God and not in our experiences.  We can easily be caught in a trap of chasing after experiences.  We may believe that without experiences we have no hope or God has forgotten us.  That was not the case for the shepherds and it is not the case for us.

Will God give us experiences?  Absolutely.  The shepherds were given and incredible gift.  An ordinary night was turned extraordinary by a loving and giving God.  However, if I don’t have an experience it does not mean God is not working.  It just means God is working in a way I can’t see right now.  My hope rests firmly in God and not experiences.

This week I invite you to think back to a time you experienced God.  Thank him for that time.  Then, ask yourself the question; are you chasing after God or after another experience?  If in the honesty of your heart you admit that you are chasing after an experience ask God to forgive you and start looking for ways seek after God.

For some, either you have not had a powerful experience with God or it has been a long time and you are losing hope or doubting.  First, I am sorry.  I know it is a hard place to be.  Second, I would encourage you to take a bold step.  Thank God for the work he is doing that you cannot see.  Focus on your hope in God and not in experiences that will come and go.

It is possible the shepherds never had another amazing experience like that night for the rest of their lives.  However, at the same time they didn’t experience anything, God was doing something amazing.  His son was on earth preparing to face death to give us eternal hope.  Yeah, I think it is safe to say God was working.


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