Shepherds and the focus shift
The Christmas season is always a time of the year that I enjoy. Yet, it feels that many times I am almost too busy to take it in. It’s not that I am doing other things, it’s just that Christmas preparations and Christmas activities and events fill up the calendar so quickly that there hardly seems to be a moment to truly stop and reflect on what Christmas means.
First of all, the Advent season always seems to sneak up on me. One week you are in the midst of a sermon series, and the next week you realize you didn’t finish your prep work for the Advent series.
Second, even if the plan is to take it slow – things just add up and all of a sudden, you are in the hustle and bustle again. There are a lot of things to do this time of year - from decorating the house and baking Christmas goodies to attending or participating in church or community Christmas programs and activities - and before you know it, there’s hardly a day without something that needs to get done.
In the midst of it all, I can sometimes find that my heart and my mind don’t seem to be focused where they should be.
In Luke 2:8 – 15 (NIV) we read, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 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.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
This is a familiar story to many of us. Most of us can recall Sunday School Christmas programs where the scene plays out with children dressed in bathrobes with hockey stick staffs in hand standing in awe of a garland trimmed angel telling the Good News of Jesus’ birth.
The shepherds were in the fields doing what they had always done - keeping watch over the sheep. This was the focus of their life, day in and day out. But suddenly, their focus was about to change. One of the things that sticks out to me is the shepherds’ response to the angel’s message. After hearing this great news, and after having, no doubt, been caught a bit off guard, the shepherds drop everything and head into Bethlehem to see if what they have just heard is true. Then Luke tells us that after seeing Jesus they told everyone about what they had seen and heard, glorifying and praising God as they returned to their work.
I would suggest that the lives of those shepherds were never the same. They had seen the Messiah and their perspective on life would likely have been altered completely.
For followers of Christ, that is what it is like when we come to a true relationship with our Lord and Saviour. God loves us so much He sent His only Son to dwell among us and to give his life for us. When we come to understand and believe that Jesus came to save us from our sin and that through his death and resurrection we have been forgiven and have been restored to a right relationship with God the Father, that’s exciting and that changes how we look at everything.
However, I have to admit, over time, as things settle down and as life goes on, it can be easy to just get into a rhythm and simply do what needs to be done and we lose a bit of that excitement of new faith. Yet, Christmas can help us to refocus our attention where it should be.
So, I wonder, how can I shift my thinking? How can I begin to refocus my attention back to where it is supposed to be – back onto Jesus, my Saviour? It’s not that the other things in life are not important and don’t need my attention, but I think I have come to realize, it’s Jesus himself that I need to keep at the center of it all. After all, He changed my world just like He changed the world of those shepherds.
This Christmas, as you gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth, I would encourage you to ask the question, “Is Jesus the focus of my life, my family, my work and my ministry, or do I need a bit of a refocus this year?”
This article was originally published in the EMMC Recorder, Vol 58 No 6