If the Christmas story reminds us that our lives with Jesus Christ are not always going to be comfortable, it also reminds us that our life with Jesus Christ is going to be one that is full of joy. That might seem contradictory, but I kind of tried to set the stage for this with some of my other recent posts.
Let’s look at the shepherds who were out in the fields watching their flocks by night. It certainly was not an easy job, and they did not have a very privileged position in society. It was one of those jobs that were necessary to the function of society, but nobody really appreciated it. After all, someone has to look after the sheep.
When the angels appeared to them in the middle of the night, we know that they were immediately afraid. The angel tells them not to be afraid in Luke 2:10, but I have to admit that that probably did not help immediately. If people appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the night in the middle of the field, it would take me a little while to calm down.
However, we know that they ultimately listened to what the angel said and went to find Jesus Christ in the stable. As soon as they saw the child, their reaction was immediate.
“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 2:20, NIV).
They understood that this was good news for them. The angels did advise that they were bringing good news that would be for all the people, but after their encounter with Christ, the shepherds were changed people. We never hear about them spreading news on their way to see the child, but Luke made sure to mention that after they met the child, they were more than happy to spread the word.
Encounters with Jesus Christ bring joy. I wrote about joy a few weeks ago when I talked about “Joy to the World” being one of my favorite Christmas carols, but I pointed out that joy is supernatural. It is a gift from God that ultimately points towards our salvation. It is not tied to our earthly circumstances but is rather tied to our position in Christ and the gift that that is.
Is it really any surprise then that the shepherds had this type of outpouring of joy only after they had met Jesus Christ? It is great to hear from angels, and I have always wondered what that experience must’ve been like. However, joy does not come from angels; joy comes from Jesus Christ.
On Friday, we’re going to take one more part of the Christmas story and show how all of this fits together. How is it possible to be uncomfortable in the world yet simultaneously have joy?