Jesus is shown to the world! The first visitors we hear of are the shepherds. Here is Luke’s familiar telling of the powerful message of joy and praise:
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; For see, I am bringing you news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger…
So the shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in a manger. When they saw him, they made known what had been told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:8-12 & 16-20.
When we celebrated Christmas, did we take time to ponder these things in our hearts, or to glorify and praise God?
On 6th January, the church celebrates the Epiphany, a word which means a moment of sudden and great revelation. We remember the visit by the wise men, led by a star from the East to pay homage and bring gifts:
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him…
Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1-3 & 8-11.
The response of the shepherds and the wise men to what they had seen and heard was one of unutterable joy and praise. But others were challenged by the events. Matthew tells us that the king, together with the Chief Priests and the Scribes were frightened and that Herod ordered all the young children in and around Bethlehem to be killed (Matthew 2) – a massacre which the church remembers as the Feast of the Holy Innocents on 28th December.
At the close of Christmas Week, do we respond with joy or with fear? Here is a short prayer:
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your advent into our world. Help us to trust you, and give us joyous hearts to celebrate your birth with faith and thanksgiving. Amen.