The heavenly host singing is my daughter’s favorite part of the story of Jesus’ birth. I imagine what the shepherds may have seen. Did it appear that the stars all came to life? Did angels materialize? Did their song sound like Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus? I imagine the whole incident taking moments but seeming like hours. I imagine breathlessness and hyperventilations as the shepherds gasped in awe, reverence … and fear. Often, when angels appear in the Bible, the first words out of their mouths are, ‘Fear not.’ Often, I have put myself in the place of the person receiving an angelic visitor, and I doubt seriously that being told not to fear would calm my heart beating out of my chest.
We find angel figurines everywhere in Christmas decorations. There’s a house not too far from mine that goes over-the-top decorating with nativity scenes, ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ banners, and angels galore. Lighted angels ‘flying’ on every fence post. Statues of bigger-than-life angels. Angels ‘keeping watch’ over manger scenes. Angels trumpeting. Angels harping. Angels … angels … everywhere.
It’s ridiculous in it’s gaudy, tacky, in-your-face-Jesus-is-the-reason-for-the-season showmanship. After seeing it every year (and every year, the owners add to the display–making it so much more than the last year’s display), I feel the need to go home and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas because I need Linus in his simplicity to remind me what Christmas is truly about. I love to hear the Peanuts crew sing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing in childlike purity. Because with all the grandiosity of a heavenly host, a baby was born in a lowly, smelly, dirty stable. Only heaven understood the royalty of Jesus’ birth. Because only heaven recognized their king despite the humble setting. The angels saw no shame in the feeding trough. They saw only God. The angels saw no shame in this poor, unwed mother. They only saw one upon whom God rested His favor.
Makes me wonder what the angels see in the events of our lives that we find shameful.
What does Jesus’ birth mean to you? To us? I see in His birth a blending of lowly (shepherds) and mighty (wise men). A blending of the irrelevant (shepherds) and the learned (wise men). A blending of the chosen (the shepherds were Jewish) and the pagan (wise men were not Jewish). A blending of the holy people of God (shepherds) and the secular people forsaken by God (wise men, because they weren’t ‘chosen’ in the Jewish sense). I see God giving honor to unexpected guests. He invited the most unlikely people to weave into His story of redemption. He used what the Jews would have considered foolish to herald His coming–confounding their logical wisdom. I see God leveling the playing field by not showing a bias of whom He invited.
A heavenly host heralded the shepherds to Jesus. A sign in the heavens led the wise men to Jesus. Do we look up enough to see what lowly, overlooked, insignificant person or circumstance might invite us to Jesus? God issued an invitation those shepherds would never forget–one that compelled them to go see a baby in a feeding trough and worship there. Another heavenly invitation issued to wise men in Eastern lands that compelled them to give their wealth to a humble carpenter, his wife and child–and they worshipped there.
As we reflect on who Christ is, what He promoted, whom He honors, may we hear an angelic host invite us into the life He offers in abundance.
And may we see and experience God in the most humble of places … and worship there.
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