Imagine being a shepherd with that band of shepherds on that first Christmas night. It is a clear, cool night. The stars are bright all around. You and your companions are drowsing next to a smoldering fire. The flame has died down, but the embers glow with a soft, pulsating light.
Suddenly, without warning, the night sky fills with light. The air itself begins to pulsate, as if the glow of the embers have somehow melted into the air itself.
And then a voice comes from out of the sky. It comes from nowhere and it comes from everywhere: “I bring you glad tidings of great joy that will come to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
Christmas is an amazing time of year. It always has been, from the very beginning. It is amazing today. No one knows this more than children.
Remember your childhood experience of Christmas. It was impossible to sleep, and when you final did fall asleep, you awoke early in the morning -- long before the sun came up, to run into the living room to see how it has been transformed in the night. It was amazing.
As adults, we know just how much money goes into making Christmas amazing
They say the average American will spend $906.00 this year on Christmas gifts alone. That is the average. 50% of American children live in or close to poverty. Most families will not spend even close to $900 on Christmas gifts. Others will spend so much more.
Over $600 Billion will be spent on Christmas gifts. 45 Million Christmas trees have been set up in homes all across the country. We spent over 6 Billion dollars on Christmas decorations alone making those Christmas trees look amazing.
From the first Christmas experienced by shepherds surrounded by a chorus of angels to today, Christmas is amazing.
Luke recognizes the amazing quality of Christmas in his telling of the first Christmas.
The shepherds rush down the hill into Bethlehem and tell the small group of people gathered at the stable what they had seen and experienced. Luke writes: “And all who heard it were amazed.”
And that’s the problem. Christmas is so amazing, and we invest so much in making it amazing, that glitter, and the lights, and even the angels become a distraction.
Certainly Luke understood this. He knew that the glitter, and the lights, and even the angels were a distraction. He signals this in one simple word. Notice the word that follows the phrase, “and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.”
It is the word, "but."
“But” is a problematic little word. It is a conjunction like the word 'and" but instead of just tying two thoughts together in unity, it holds two thoughts together in tension.
"Kevin, I really enjoyed your sermon, BUT. . . ."
"Kevin, it is great that you bring your dog Scooter to the office, BUT. . . ."
I appreciate the way you do this or that, BUT. . . . What comes next might be a little difficult to take. Whatever comes after the word "but" casts what preceded the word in a new and different light.
And so the Christian reading says, “and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured these words and pondered them in her heart.
Christmas is an amazing time of year, filled with glitter, and lights, and even angels. But all the glitter, and lights, and even angels are only a distraction if we overlook the message of angels.
"For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."
Can we, like Mary, treasure these words and ponder them in our heart?
What does this mean?
What difference does this make in the human experience?
What difference can this make in my life?
Don't let the glitter, and the lights, and even the angels distract you from the heart of the message: "For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."
Can we treasure these words and ponder them in our hearts?