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Congregational Development and Revitalization | WAIT Christmas Eve: Waiting with the Shepherds

Wait: Waiting with the Shepherds

Luke 2:8-20


Over the last several weeks we have looked at the topic of waiting together.  Many of us have been waiting on Christmas Eve and anticipating it.  Many of our kids are waiting for Christmas mourning.  The truth is that we do not like to wait.  - When Timex (the watch company) asked people how long they would wait before taking action in a wide variety of situations, researchers discovered that we'll consent to wait only:

•thirteen seconds before we honk at a car in front of us that's stopped at a green light;

•twenty-six seconds before we shush people who are talking in a movie theater;

•twenty-six seconds before we take the seat of someone who's walked away;

•forty-five seconds before we ask someone who's talking too loud on a cell phone to "keep it down";

•thirteen minutes for a table at a restaurant;

•twenty minutes for a blind date to show up before we leave;

•and twenty minutes for the last person to show up for Thanksgiving dinner before we dig in.

 (Rick Lawrence, Skin in the Game (Kregel Publications, 2015), pp. 105-107. Resource from


We have looked at waiting on God when it feels like God is silent.  Waiting on God’s salvation, waiting for justice, and waiting on our calling.  Today on this Christmas Eve let’s explore together what it looks like to wait with the Shepherds.  


Many of us are very familiar with the story we read about the Shepherds.  More than likely we have seen them in Nativity sets and on TV.  We often read their story and have memorized the story so much that we often miss what Luke is trying to tell us through this story.  For example, Luke introduces this section on Jesus’ birth with a chronological marker.  He doesn’t give us a date specifically, but wants us to know who was in power when Jesus was born. Quirinius was governor and Augustus was Caesar.  


You may be wondering what the big deal is about this time marker that probably has little to do with trying to help us date Jesus’ birth.  After Jesus birth angels appear to announce the good news of what God has done and instead of showing up to those who are in charge, they show up to a bunch of Shepherds.  


As Joel Green in his commentary on Luke points out Shepherds in an agrarian society may have small land holdings but not enough to provide for their families so they may have hired themselves out to make enough wages.  They were on the bottom of the social ladder. Good news comes to the peasants not the rulers.


We sometimes believe that those who are furthest up the social ladder or the people who have it all together or the preachers are the only people who God announces things to, but this story reminds us that God comes to those who are humble and lowly, the people in the fields, and those who feel forgotten.  


When the angels show up to announce the good news, Luke tell us that the glory of the Lord was around them.  I had never really paid attention to this small detail, but it is huge when put into context.  Normally God’s glory was reserved for the temple so to experience God a person was told they had to be in the temple.  However, Luke points out the God’s glory was shown in a field to a bunch of Shepherds.  I love church and I always have.  I believe that good things happen in the church and I believe it is a wonderful place to experience God.  I also believe that worshipping and fellowship that takes place is vital to following Jesus.  However, God also is alive and active outside the church building.  God can show up in a field, in a park, on a mountain.  God shows up anywhere at anytime.  If we only wait until Sunday comes or Christmas Eve to hear from God, we are missing out and what God wants to announce to us or show us or where God may want to lead us.


This passage of Scripture still makes me scratch my head.  I mean why would God come to the Shepherds in the middle of a field.  It would seem that if God wanted to make a greater impact Augustus would have been a better choice.  At least if they were sent to the Pharisees and Sadducees then all of the Jewish persons would know that Jesus was really the long awaited Messiah. 


I am not sure we will ever really know the answer.  We could do some guess work.  Most often we are told it is because the Shepherds were humble and the world and religious leaders weren’t and I am sure there is plenty of truth in that.  I also wonder though if it has to do with how the Shepherds were waiting.  The world and religious leaders were probably not waiting on God at all.  That is my guess anyway and if they were it was to benefit themselves.   Instead the Shepherds were doing what they always do and taking care of their flocks.  They seem to be being faithful to who they were and quietly letting God do what God was going to do.


I have been thinking a lot about this because I am a person who is very quick to try to fix things around me.  Maybe I like control.  Perhaps I worry so much what people will think I have to just try to fix it all.  Rarely do I wait on God or even prayer about it with the intent of really listening to what God wants to tell me.  Maybe this is what it means to wait with the Shepherds.


In his book, Detours: Sometimes Rough Roads Lead to Right Places, Clark Cothern tells of a Christmas when his family encountered an unexpected house guest. A squirrel had fallen down their chimney into the wood burner stove in the basement of their Michigan home. Cothern writes:


I thought if it knew we were there to help, I could just reach in and gently lift it out. Nothing doing. As I reached in…it began scratching about like a squirrel overdosed on espresso. We finally managed to construct a cardboard box “cage” complete with a large hole cut into one side, into which the squirrel waltzed when we placed the box against the wood burner’s door. We let it out into the safety of our backyard.  Later, I thought, Isn’t it funny how, before its redemption, our little visitor had frantically tried to bash its way out of its dark prison? It seemed that the harder it struggled in its own strength to get free, the more pain it caused itself.In the end, he simply had to wait patiently until one who was much bigger—one who could peer into his world—could carry him safely to that larger world where he really belonged.(Clark Cothern, Detours: Sometimes Rough Roads Lead to Right Places (Multnomah, 1999.  


If we will just wait with the Shepherds, God will bring us to a place where God can set us free.  If on this Christmas Eve you have come restless, hurting, broken, and in need of forgiveness, you have come to the right place to wait with the Shepherds on this Christmas Eve.

Read about WAIT Christmas Eve: Waiting with the Shepherds in this story from The Call

Annual Conference wrap-up: Shared love for Africa triumphs over divisions

ALCOA, Tenn. (June 18, 2018) The Holston Annual Conference gathered June 10-13 with Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor presiding at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Under the theme, “Jesus is Good,” 1,948 members represented Holston’s 877 congregations ...

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