“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Where ever you may fall in your belief system this story is one of hope. It is a story of radiance in the heart of darkness. This story is one in which we realize going to the darkest depths of our spirit is good, not evil. It was written to a people who are living under the greatest military super power the world has ever seen. The first century audience that would have read or heard Luke’s account has been living in a world oppressed by the system. They have lost so much under the thumb of Roman rule. Hearing a story of a young woman of the priestly class who has lost privilege, esteem, favor, all to be true to this new birth happening in her is the very story of the people who would be hearing its telling for the first time.
At this time Mary and Joseph are most likely teenagers. They are high schoolers. Is anyone else baffled by this. Mary is dealing with all of her situation with one man – Joseph. Due to the circumstances of her pregnancy, we can assume she was disowned by her family. It was her and Joseph. All they had was each other and the promise of what was to come.
As the story goes, Mary and Joseph are looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem but can not find accomodations so a stable was a logical choice for shelter. For a baby to be born in a manger by someone of the priestly class was a big deal. A manger is unclean. It is dirty. It is full of animals. It is the lowest of the low. To have a child from a priestly lineage in an unclean place is unthinkable but this is where the Christ was to be born.
The Jewish people have lost their freedoms under the Roman government. Community was essential for renewing their spiritual fervor and strength. Mary and Joseph chose to have this child together and lost their social standing among the Jewish community. These people who have lost their place in the community are now bearers of the Christ.
An angel appeared to shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks at night and told them of the Savior that was born in the city of David. The shepherds went to find the baby with haste. After they found Mary and Joseph they told them of what had happened at night while they guarded their sheep. “And those who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” First let’s appreciate the heart of Mary that she would “treasure up all these things”. Amazing.
It might also interest you to know that a shepherd is not a symbol of good standing. Christian culture today insinuates shepherding a flock is a good thing. It is a symbol of a leader. Today it is a symbol of the unselfish man or woman wishing to help people change to become better. In the first century a shepherd was someone who had been shunned by the Jewish community. Sound like a young couple we know? Shepherds have been removed because of something they have done. They could have been rapist, pedophiles, thieves. They have offended the tribe so greatly they were commanded to work in the fields with unclean animals. If the sheep were unclean, the shepherds would too become unclean. The smell of the sheep would attach itself to the shepherds. As a shepherd entered a village, their smell would preceed them. The odor of sheep permeates long before the man arrives. It was like a warning bell of what type of person was arriving. Beware.
These men, these dirty, unclean men, who allowed darkness to rule their life at some time are the chosen messengers the angel goes to to announce the birth of a savior in heart of night.
This happening at night was intentional. Radiance of light is born in the heart of darkness – that is the only place it can be birthed.
In our darkest place, in the place we feel completely unworthy, is where we go to look for this new radiance. The radiance begins in the darkness. It has it’s start in those places in our spirit that seem to be too dark. All of the depression, the despair, in all the places we have screwed it all up, this is where the light begins.
Lean on the Christ’s knowing of the light beginning in the darkest place of our soul. This is the beauty of the birth of Jesus. The radiance of life began in the darkest places of the time. The ember began in an incredible woman named Mary. Mary is this incredible presence who rests in knowing that no matter what life brings, no matter what we are going through, just keep going – there is good in the end.
As evening fades into the deep dark hours of the night, look outside and soak in the sight of the lights. Take note of the radiance of the Christmas lights in the deepest dark.
You find radiance in the dark.
Everyone of us carries a deep darkness.
Do not fear it.
It is not evil.
Go there, for that is the place of the new radiance.