Learning from Angels, Shepherds and Wise Men

There are so many different parts and people in the story of Jesus’ birth told in the first couple books of the New Testament.  Each of them speak to me for different reasons and make me consider different parts of my faith for different reasons.

Angels:

There are many angels that come in and out of the story of Jesus’ birth.  In this case, I am focusing on scene of the angels and the shepherds.  An angel comes to the shepherds and tell them of Jesus’ birth. Then,

luke_2_13-14
Luke 2:13-14

They were overcome with joy, which they couldn’t hold in and were singing.  I can totally understand this.  I am incessantly singing/humming, often without realizing it.  What if this was God’s song bursting to come out, that I just couldn’t contain?  There are times when I am totally overcome by God’s amazing grace, presence, and majesty.  Interestingly, these aren’t the times I feel overcome by song.  This is what I want to work on – joy uncontainable at God’s goodness.  Joy that is impossible to contain and keep to myself.

Shepherds:shepherds_lg

Following the angels’ announcement and praise, the shepherds then had a choice to make and they did quickly.

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child… – Luke 2-16-17

They didn’t hesitate or sit and have a counsel.  They acted!  I can struggle with this at times.  I’m an overthinker.  Sometimes, though, there is nothing to overthink.  Sometimes, God makes things clear, and it is just time to act (okay it may not come from a heavenly host, but still) Then, they didn’t stay quiet!  They told people about it.  Too often, I keep God’s amazingness to myself.  Instead, I should be letting the whole world know!  God’s grace is evident in my daily life.  I soak it up and enjoy it.  How can I share it with others in a consistent manner?

Wise Men:

The wise men followed a star to find Jesus.  They were from the East and, so, their first stop was the king, Herod.  They told him:

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2

The wise men seem to be the exception in the story.  Everyone else seemed to get a direct, clear message from an angel(s).  Mary, Joseph, the shepherds – they all got a clear message from an angel about what was happening and what they should do.  Not the wise men; an angel didn’t give them a clear message.  They saw a star and somehow knew.  So, they followed the star to what they knew would be God’s gift.  How did they know this?  What made this star different?  What made them think: hmm, I bet this star leads to the King who will save us all.  God speaks in mysterious ways.  Most of the time, God speaks in a silent feeling (a nudge as my sister calls it) followed by peace.  God speaks to me through peace.  In my reflection of the wisemen’s experiences, this is how I picture it.  Maybe the star did look different, I assume it had to for them to know exactly which one to follow.  As they reflected on this star that seemed to be standing out among the constellations, somehow God nudged one of

Henry Siddons Mowbray's The Magi
Henry Siddons Mowbray’s The Magi

these wise men to share his reflection that this star might mean something.  Slowly another wise man joined in and agreed.  As they reached an agreement, peace came over them and they knew it was from God (because there is nothing quite so reassuring as God’s peace).  Maybe it was at this point that God nudged them to understanding that this was “His star.”  Then, the inability to ignore the knowledge and peace that God had granted, led to action.   We are called to listen for God to speak to us (or look for in this case!).  Sometimes this is clear, like a message from an angel, but usually not in my experience.  Often it comes through a feeling, much like what I guess the wise men felt.  We have to be still and listen.  Then we have to act in faith.  This is what the wise men did.  They acted in faith based on a holy nudge.

What can I take from each of these? Each of these groups learned about Jesus’ birth differently.  Angels directly from the source (I’m assuming), Shepherds from angels, and wise men from a nudge.  God communicated to them each differently because they each probably needed it differently.  They also acted similarly, yet in nuanced differences.  They all reacted in faith.  We aren’t told of any doubt or hesitation by any of these groups.  They all acted in faith.  They all went where God sent them: angels to tell shepherds and shepherds/wisemen to worship the newborn King.  They all worshipped Him in song, gift, or praise.  Maybe these are the things we are to take from these groups: listen, act in faith quickly, go where God sends, and praise Him.  I think this is the path to a close relationship with God that will continue to expand and lead to new opportunities.

This Christmas, as I reflect on the gift of Christ’s birth, I want to think about my response – am I acting like an angel, a shepherd or a wise man?  I hope so!

– S

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