And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2: 8
Out of all the people involved in the birth of Jesus, the shepherds are the most intriguing to me. I don’t know the first thing about being a shepherd. I don’t know the first thing about sheep. I don’t know the first thing about protecting a flock of anything. But I do know a bit about being lonely. I know a bit about what it feels like to be “living out in the ‘figurative’ fields” of the desolation of the soul.
I know what it feels like to be alone …alone because you don’t know where you belong.
I still remember the first few years after I moved to the United States…I didn’t get to go “back home” for Christmas for a while, so the season represented a reminder of all I’ve left behind. Just a couple of days ago, while riding in the car with Grant, the song “I’ll be Home for Christmas” came on and I told him how there was a time, before he was born, when that song would make me terribly sad. My heart was split in two as the ties to the home of my youth were still too strong. I resisted change. I didn’t want to let go. It was the pain of transition. I was torn. I was lonely.
However, that was also the time when God grabbed firm hold of me. I’ve always counted myself among His sheep. I knew that He had been always speaking to me. But I’m not sure I’ve really ever heard His voice. I didn’t know what it meant to seek Him first. But at that time of loneliness, pain and transition, I was finally ready to truly listen to Him. I had nothing, so my eyes were finally turned to His face. I had nothing else to notice, so I watched for Him.
Like the Shepherds, who kept watched over the flock at night, I finally became alert of God’s hand in my life. I was able to still my constant rush and hush the deafening noise of the world, to keep watch in the silence of the night.
The story of the shepherds doesn’t end there, however. For in the silence of their night, these solitary men, who kept watch, who in their condition as outcast and unclean kept waiting for the hope of a gift, turned out to be the chosen ones to receive the greatest news ever revealed,
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.” Luke 2: 9-12
The story of our lives doesn’t end where we now are either. There is hope for the lonely, for the brokenhearted, for the outcast, for the rejected ones. Emmanuel is here. He is near those in need. He mends the brokenhearted. As we keep watch for Him, He appears and all His glory shines around us, bringing His good news and His light to all who have been waiting alone in the dark.