So, here it is, the day of Christmas Eve. It is my favorite day of the season: tonight we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
This morning I was thinking about being a shepherd. Every Christmas for many years I was honored to be counted among the humble shepherds for 4 performances a night for 2 nights. Our small church had an outdoor Christmas pageant.
Yes, outdoors in Alberta in the winter. I was a rather fluffy shepherd with my snow suit and minus 60 below winter boots on under my shepherd’s costume. (But the beard was good to keep my face warm, if a bit itchy). What ever the weather, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
I was a Sunday School teacher and cub/blazer scout leader to the other ‘shepherds’ and they found it helped to have someone ‘ride herd’ on them. Not that they were bad kids at all, just little boys. I loved each one of them then and still do: Stanley, Danny, Michael, and Ricky.
There were real sheep, a real donkey for Mary to ride, a Lama for a camel that the wise men led. The stable was made of rough cut slabs, filled with fresh straw, and there was a small wooden manger.
There was an angel on the roof of the church bringing “glad tidings of great joy” to us shepherds and she was joined “by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God . . .” (The angels were often one or more of my own daughters).
We went “with haste” to the stable “and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger”. In my heart, I was really there that night so long ago, and when I kneeled and worshiped the Son of God born into the world I did it for real.
Some folks don’t believe in God, the Father; they don’t believe that the Christ child was His son. Maybe He lived they think, but only a great teacher, not born of a virgin, impossible, not resurrected.
But I am here to tell them all, pshaw. I know different. I know He was born just like that Christmas pageant story says, that He lived, died, was resurrected and lives today. I know when I pray He hears, answers, and loves me, in spite of my idiosyncracies, failures, or the mole on my face.
I have had Him lift my burdens of guilt and shame, comfort me when I thought my heart would break, bless me with wisdom when I asked for it, and allow me to learn the things I need to so that I can see His face someday and feel His warm embrace.
I guess it’s not just my favorite day of the holidays, it’s my favorite day of the whole year.
“I love thee Lord Jesus, and ask thee to stay, close by me forever, and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.” (Away in a Manger, last verse)
May the Lord whose birth we celebrate this night bless you all, my friends.