Merry Christmas! The watching and waiting is almost over. Christmas will soon be here. Amid the hustle and bustle of this busy season, may we take the time to pause and ponder the events of that Holy Night that changed everything.
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.
Luke 2:8-9 – NIV
When the red alarm of a heart monitor goes off, it’s quite an attention grabber. There are a lot of beeps, bells and whistles in the world of a critical care nurse, but the red alarm is a demand for immediate action. The deep in incessant Bong of this most serious of cardiac alarms indicates a life threatening emergency.
When the red alarm goes off on the day shift, it makes your heart Race and your feet move. But when that unmistakable bell goes off in the middle of the night, a superwoman burst of adrenaline surges through your veins. On the day shift, you are surrounded by loads of health care professionals ready to spring into action with you. On the night shift, it’s a different story. With less staff on duty, there is less help in a crisis. So when that red alarm rings in the middle of the night, every nurse knows that gut clenching moment of electrifying panic, that lightning speed transition from drowsy boredom to sheer terror.
I remember well those countless night shifts, my white clad self slumped in a rolling desk chair, staring at the banks of heart monitors. There’s typically a lull around 3AM, with most of the routine nursing tasks complete, and the morning rush not yet started. That’s when it’s tough to stay awake. That’s when you start counting the minutes until morning.
Was that what it was like for those long ago night shift shepherds?
Were they tired, trudging through their tasks, trying to stay awake? Had the sheep settled into slumber allowing their masters to find shelter under a boulder, a warmer spot to keep their watch?
Were they, like me, plagued by droopy eyelids? Were those humble shepherds also stifling one yawn after another, wanting so badly to settle into sleep, but knowing that they couldn’t?
On duty, on call, the responsibility resting on your shoulders. Hours left until morning, hours left before you can find your bed. Stay awake. Stay alert.
“Beep, beep, beep,” the steady hum of the monitors serenades the nursing unit like the sweet strum of a guitar. Sitting there staring at the squiggly shapes scrolling across the screen, those mind numbing beeps have the effect of a bedtime story on a sleep deprived nurse.
Until the red alarm sounds. Until the course of the night is changed forever.
For the shepherds, the red alarm came with the arrival of the angel. With lightning speed, they were thrust from their drowsy boredom into sheer terror. Their red alarm rang, and the course of the night, even the course of their lives, was changed forever.
There they were, stretched out on a hillside, backs resting on a rock. Suddenly, the black shroud of night was eclipsed by a blinding light. Without a whistle of warning, the shepherds were bathed in the bright light of an angel’s aura.
Can you imagine their fear? They had to be overwhelmed, confused, even stunned. Surely, adrenaline coursed through their veins. They must have tried to shake off their stupor, uncertain if this was a crazy dream or a real encounter of the divine kind.
then the angel spoke. “Fear not!” Did that calm their frayed nerves? “Do not be afraid.” Did that message slow their heart rates?
The Biblical story does not give us the answers to those questions, but it does tell us something very important. The shepherds saw the angel, listened to the message, and right there, on the spot, they believed.
How do we know they believed? We know because they did as they were told. They acted on the angel‘s instructions. The shepherds took a step of faith and went to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
The Nativity story doesn’t say what happened to the sheep. The wording of Scripture leads us to think that the shepherds left their sheep and set out in search of the stable. If that is the timeline, then the shepherds’ actions are even more amazing. After all, good shepherds don’t leave their sheep alone. Were they so emboldened by the angel’s message that they dropped everything to find the Christ Child?
Whatever the missing details, it is clear that the shepherds came. They came to see the baby. They came to worship the Messiah, and they did not stop there. Those shepherds were so blown away by the magnitude of what they had seen and heard, they had to share it. They were compelled to go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere!
Was there ever a moment of doubt in their minds? Did they ever want to shrug off the vision as some wild dream? Were they fearful and overwhelmed? Given their humanity, they likely felt all of those things.
We don’t really know what thoughts ran through the heads of those simple shepherds on that long ago night. But here’s the thing. The shepherds did not let fear or doubt stop them. Instead, they chose to believe, and because of it, they received.
You and I are often plagued by fears and doubts. There are times when our faith is challenged. There are times when we are uncertain of how to handle our problems, of what action to take at those challenging forks in the road. We find ourselves waiting for answers to tough questions, plagued by monumental problems, longing for divine intervention.
Although we may not receive an angelic proclamation to guide our steps, we can learn from the shepherd’s example. We can learn to cast away our fears and doubts, and take a step of faith. We can trust that God can make the impossible possible.
We don’t have to face the red alarms of life alone. The burden does not rest solely on our shoulders. Our Lord Emmanuel is with us. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.
Friends, banish the doubt. Release the fear. Embrace trust instead. Find the Christ Child once more and rejoice in His coming. He came for you, and for me. Let us go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere!
Christ the Savior is born! ! Christ the Savior is born!
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:16-18,20 – NIV
O King Jesus, You have come! You have come into this dark world to bring us Light, to give us Hope, to fill us with Joy. O Jesus, we sing Your praises just as those simple shepherds declared Your Glory so long ago. Glory to God in the Highest! Our Joy is complete! You have come! Emmanuel has come!
In the Miraculous Name of Jesus, we give our thanks and praise,