I was listening to Greg Laurie yesterday, and he made an interesting observation. He said that our perception of Christmas is rather clean and neat, especially in regards to the shepherds. They were dirty and smelly and yet angels appeared to them.
I began thinking about what changed the day Jesus was born. I sadly concluded, nothing. Stay with me on this one.
Rome still ruled with violence and swift retaliation for any threats against its autocratic rule. Caesar Augustus continued to refer to himself as the "son of god."
Herod still ruled over the area where Jesus was born. He would later seal his cruel and irreverent reign by killing innocent children in an attempt to eliminate any claimants to his throne.
The poor were still poor.
The rich were still rich.
The Jewish people were still in their own land but with the glory days of King David far behind them and the pagan rule of a cruel people still on them.
In the quiet of a village night, a small newborn cried. All around Him the world carried on, no different from the day before and no different in the days to come.
What exactly did the angels tell those shepherds?
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. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
(Luke 2: 8-14)
Something did change here. The shepherds had something to go look for:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
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. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 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 2:15-20)
Maybe that is what changed that first Christmas. We had Someone to go and look for and He would be there.
There is a wonderful scene in the movie, Shadowlands, (about C.S. Lewis) where Joy's son comes to Lewis's house and he runs upstairs to find the wardrobe. He flings the doors open, expecting to see the entrance to the world of the Lion and all the characters of that story. He just sees clothing hanging there, silent and still.
Isn't that humanity? We go looking in every "wardrobe" expecting to find what our imaginations have created, only to find, well, nothing but the ordinary, the mundane, the usual, the still broken.
Jesus' birth changed nothing in the world that day. But, and this is huge: He gave us Himself to go and find. Those who sincerely seek Him are never disappointed.
Even the lowliest of us can find Him. Think of the shepherds.
Even the mightiest of us can find Him. Think of the magi.
Even the most ordinary of us can find Him. Think of May, Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth.
That night, when that newborn cried, a Light pierced the darkness and said, Come find Me. I am at the end of your searching, your longing. Everything around you will be the same, but when you find Me, that will change you, and a changed you will go out and bring the light this broken world so desperately needs.
True, nothing in the world changed the night of Jesus' birth, but in that small gathering of people in the Christmas story, everything changed. Forever.
Merry Christmas and be blessed in His name!