Scott Sanders launches our Advent series by getting lost in the bush and finding the humble path - at expense of his pride.
Jessica Smith is the Community Pastor at Paddington Anglican Church and Operations Director for Common Grace.
Today's reading is Luke 2:1-20
I love that dance party feeling. A whole group gathered, moving in sync to shared music, singing snippets of song, rejoicing in body, connected to one another, released to celebrate. I remember the laughter of dancing with a pack of friends at the end of high school, the joy of being in a crowd as my favourite band played with everyone singing along, and today I delight in dancing with my daughter as we celebrate a good stint of cleaning up.
In the midst of a very ordinary birth of a baby to a poor young couple on the edge of the Roman Empire, God’s special messengers show up on mass …and have a dance party.
Suddenly the heavenly host gathers visibly in the night sky. For a small audience of shepherds, the Angels sing. In this moment, the curtains of the heavenly realm are pulled back and we see the incredible excitement of God's community. God’s decisive person has come into the world and their response is to sing and dance, to overflow collectively in delight and joy.
Sitting out in the dark by the fire, watching their flocks in silence, used to silent nights, the shepherds are terrified. Tonight the sky is ablaze. God’s glory radiating everywhere. Shocked, stunned, overwhelmed, locked to the spot; fear grips them. Yet the fear is met immediately by the angel’s word, a clear command ‘Do not be afraid’. For instead of terror or fear they are instructed toward joy. The long-awaited Saviour, the Messiah has been born. And the heavenly realm in all its joy and delight is exposed for all to see, full of praise for God and the news of peace coming to earth.
Fear Not is just the start of the Angel’s message. Joy and anticipation, the coming of the Saviour, the promise of peace, and a whole lot of praise are what follows. How lovely to catch a glimpse of the heavenly posse’s reaction to God’s activity!
And the shepherds, after hurrying to find the baby, replace their terror with witness as they too overflow with praise.
As God’s cosmic renewal plan is launched in the birth of the baby, the angels & shepherds are to be our guide: it’s time to do some dancing.
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The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15 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.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.