JOY: THE SHEPHERD CANDLE
Light the Prophecy and Bethlehem Candles.
Luke 2:8-20 (NRSV)
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
This week we light the Shepherd Candle, symbolizing the joy of the shepherds on that precious night of Jesus’ birth. Shepherds and sheep are mentioned throughout the Bible, and we will read some of the different passages about them this week. In each of these stories, we will look for reasons to be joyful.
According to the gospel of Luke, the shepherds were the ones to first hear the “good news of great joy” from the angels: To you… is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Once again, scholars question whether the shepherds were truly the first ones to hear the good news. But I find that the more I read the Bible for its rich, symbolic meaning, the more meaningful the Christmas narrative becomes. The shepherds become receivers of the message and Perceivers of the Joy found in that message. The shepherds are not royal, rich or renown; the shepherds could be any of us. The symbolism of the shepherds conveys to us these treasures: the good news is meant for everyone, the good news comes to us in surprising ways, and the good news brings joy for all people.
Light the Shepherd Candle.
Today we especially think of the shepherds’ joy on the night of Jesus’ birth. The good news of this Savior is our good news, too. We should feel surprising joy each time we consider this! But the Good News can easily become “old news” at times. Some of us have heard this same story for years, and we may no longer hear the message like we did that first time. We might begin to take the story for granted, or forget what Jesus endured to show us God’s love, or busy ourselves with other Christmas distractions, or fail to recognize how amazing it is that God would come to us.
To perceive is to attain awareness or understanding. Let’s make this week an invitation to revisit this story as well as other passages about shepherds and sheep, and to newly perceive the joy each one holds for us. Let’s ask the Spirit to reveal new depth and meaning for us in these incredible stories. May we never forget what a significant gift we have in joy- the joy that is available for every moment of our lives.
PERCEIVERS OF JOY
Oh, that night of pure, holy light, the shepherds’ joy and thrill!
Angels appeared, the song rang out, and our Good News was heard.
Love came down! For us was born, your Son, our Lord, Your Word.
May sheer joy spill as we follow your will,
As with their message spurred.
Prayer: We are so thankful, God, for that night of joy! Help us, like the shepherds, become true Perceivers of Joy- finding our deep, abiding joy in your love. Inspire us anew, help us to hear these words with fresh perspectives and deep gratitude. Spur us on to share this news with all who need some joy today. Amen.