The Paper – Editorial November 2011 – Come and Worship
One of the favourite icons of Christmas is the Shepherds. We are all familiar with scenes of the Shepherds in the fields with their sheep. The Christmas Story relates how the Shepherds were watching their flocks, when suddenly something different, extraordinary and miraculous happened. They saw something that they had never seen before, and were greeted with tidings that were positive and embracing! Without wanting to detract from the seasonal significance of the occasion there are a number of observations we could make about the event.
The Shepherds were normal people going about their normal work. They were not recognised as being super special in any way (like the Three Kings of another well known Christmas icon) – they no doubt had their own personal convictions and beliefs, but generally they were representative of the average person. One significant point, however, was that when they were given a message they listened. They were open-minded enough to listen to a different point of view. Although it may have been a pretty spectacular way in which the message was delivered, they were receptive and were prepared to consider what they heard. We are not told with what level of veracity they questioned the angels’ message, but in the moment they were truly convicted by it. They believed the report, and were receptive to what it invited them to do.
The shepherds then responded to the Message. They went as they had been invited. What about leaving the sheep alone on the hillside while they went? They were convicted to the extent that they accepted to take risks which they might normally think were bad practice! And when they came, they saw. It was the impact of personal experience that fully convinced and convicted them that this was truth. The angels, the message, the invitation all followed in sequence, but the confirmation was when they saw for themselves.
We are told that this event had a dramatic impact on the rest of their lives. The story records that they went back to work and remembered the things that they had heard and seen, and as they remembered they rejoiced that they had been given the revelation and understanding. However, imagine the scene sometime later, and people passing by look on these people, the shepherds, considered in their society to be among the lowliest of all professions; on the outside they may have looked the same as before, but were they? They had had an experience that changed their lives on the inside, although the outside may have not looked any different.
As Christians we believe that the same process can be followed today by those who come to know God in what seems to be to many a mostly mundane World. Just as the angel spoke to the Shepherds so The Great Creator can speak into our personal lives today, convincing and convicting people of things which may not fit within the province of human logical reason. Paul in the Bible put it this way; “From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.” (Romans chapter 1, verse 20) This Christmas would you like to follow the example of the Shepherds - hear the call, accept, follow and experience for yourself a relationship with God through an encounter with the Christmas Baby, now grown and dwelling in another realm with His Heavenly Father.
If you would like to talk more about these beliefs and how the events of Christmas can help us accept our past, set the scene for a better life here and now, as well as show us a Vision for the future, please come along to our Church some time (see Church Notices for dates and times), or contact a Church near you and attend over this Christmas period where someone would be only too happy to discuss these issues further.