Third Sunday of Advent: Joy

“. . . I bring you good news of great joy . . .”

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 [the shepherds] were terrified. But the angel to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord [or Anointed One]. This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

The shepherds were “keeping watch over their flocks by night” when “an angel of the Lord appeared to them.” We see shepherds depicted as protectors throughout the Scriptures. David the Psalmist, as a youth and before he was anointed king was a herdsman. Shepherds defend the sheep from the lion and the bear, and treat the wounded and sick. It is an isolated and rough existence. The last thing these shepherds expect is a heavenly envoy! They are terrified! Think about it. Do you think you would be a little agitated if an angel lit up your room in the middle of the night? These are unremarkable people chosen to receive an extraordinary message. Do you think that irony of the situation was lost on them? Of all people, shepherds! What next, wise men from the East?

The shepherds receive the message form the angel and the “great company of the heavenly host” and wonder and curiosity. What is their response? “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see,” and they find everything “…just as they had been told. ” Taking their leave with reverence, can you hear them rambling back along the way–long, good humored, boisterous shepherds–regular people, singing songs of praise and worship? “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!” They go on their way with great joy telling the news to anyone who will listen. They return to their lives, “praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:20)

The joy of the shepherds is contagious! We cannot but smile and reflect in their merriment. The joy of the shepherds may remind us of joy we once knew! And yet Jesus has not left us, is here to give us a joy that overflows!

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

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