Lately my wife and I have been revisiting our original timing on purchasing a home here on the East Coast. Things have changed a little and there are now a few more considerations to weigh in with the decision. As we walked around our pretty neighborhood yesterday we talked about the nice amenities that luxury apartment living provides. The one item I really miss though is a nice sized fenced in backyard.
One of the reasons for that came to mind as I got up from the warm couch last night to don a sweater and grab the dog’s lease in order to go outside so the pooch could do her business before we retired for the night. On the positive side though, once we were outside and standing on the lawn behind our apartment, I was rewarded with the wonderment of a fresh cool crisp night following two days of clouds and rain and the awe-filled sight of a clear sky studded with gloriously bright stars.
That same reason came up again around 5:30 this morning when I was suddenly awakened by the sight of the dog’s wet nose in my face… which only meant one thing... you got it… she needed to go out! In the past all I would have to do when this came up was sleepily shuffle to the back door and let her out. But not in the apartment! So, I tried to keep a happy thought as I threw on a pair of jeans and my San Francisco Giants hoodie and stepped out into the twenty-some degree night air!
Now I am not usually one to be concerned about my personal safety. Over the years as an apartment manager, Youth Pastor, and Manager on Duty at the Home Depot, I have faced a few potentially hostile situations but I’ve always been able to cast my care on the Lord and handle the situation to the best of my abilities.
But when I turned the door knob early this morning, I was unexpectantly hit with a wave of concern for what we might come upon out in the dark! Once I opened the door the concerns dissolved when I walked out into the brightly lit breezeway. The lawn area was a little bit darker and while the dog took care of her needs, I kept an eye on our surroundings. I was quite pleased when she did her job and quickly retreated to our front door.
This morning as I read our Thursday, the second week of Advent readings I was reminded of my distractions last night and how it caused me to not take the opportunity to look up into the pre-dawn skies in order to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the moment. It also made me think of how many other times in my life that I have been distracted by worries, finances, sickness or just the everyday hustle and bustle of life to miss something beautiful that the Lord wanted me to enjoy and just maybe, learn a lesson from. Have you ever thought about that in your life? Keep that in mind as you read today’s encouraging word…
Thursday, the second week of Advent
Today’s Readings: Psalm 23:1 / Luke 2:8-14 / Ephesians 1:22
The story of the angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds who were tending their flocks under the open skies is a very easy one for me to imagine. A few years back my family and I were camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at our favorite State Park and we decided to do a little high elevation star gazing. One night about 10:00 pm we hopped in the Suburban and drove up the narrow road to the parking lot of the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl, the site of some of the original long boarding events in the state of California. When we reached the lot I noticed that there were other vehicles parked throughout the area, so I turned off the lights and navigated by the reflection of the stars. As we opened the doors we all made a collective sigh as we were totally overwhelmed by the bright beauty of the overhead stars that seemed to be within arm’s reach!
The sight was simply amazing and it immediately brought my thoughts to that night when the “glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9 NKLV) in the countryside near the little town of Bethlehem. What was truly arresting to the senses was that the more you looked at the sky, the more stars you saw! Then as I viewed it through my camera and telephoto lens set on a tripod, the vision was absolutely spellbinding! It was almost like the whole sky was one bright light that seemed to shine from eternity. I would imagine that this was similar to the shepherd’s sight of the “multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’” (Luke 2:13-14 NKJV)
It is very significant that the shepherds were the first to receive the announcement of the birth of their Savior. These weren’t just ordinary shepherds, but those commissioned to watch over the sacrificial lambs for the temple in Jerusalem. They were the protectors of the perfect lambs to be sacrificed for the covering of the people’s sins each year. Isn’t it appropriate that these individuals be among the first to pay homage to the Lamb of God who would offer up Himself as the complete and final sacrifice who would not just cover but totally remove our sins, once and for all?
The shepherds also represented the common man, not the intellectuals, the rich or religious leaders. Jesus came for all men (not just a select few) and is easily accessible to all who come to Him. It is also important to note that the patriarchs of our faith were all shepherds. In fact, Moses and David were actually called out while tending their flocks to rule God’s people. Later in His life, Jesus would refer to Himself as “The good shepherd who giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 KJV)
When the angel appeared to the men out in the field in the middle of the night, he instantly calmed their fears and reported that he was bringing “good news… that will fill everyone with joy.” (Luke 2:10 God’s Word ©) He was excitedly declaring that “I am not come to declare the judgments of God, but his merciful loving-kindness, the subject being a matter of great joy!” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible) The angel was pronouncing Jesus’ life changing task of providing a way for there to be peace between God and man. (See: Romans 5:1) He came to introduce us to God as a loving Papa!
Our story also records that the word of the Lord came to those who were “abiding in the field, keeping watch…” (Luke 2:8 KLV) How important it is for each of us to abide in the fields of our lives and keep watch for the directions and leadings of God. This is the perfect time of year to take a look for and consider removing the unnecessary things in your life that may distract you from being attentive to the plans and purposes that our heavenly Father may have for you. I would encourage you to take the opportunity this week to step outside late some night and look up into the heavens and view the glories that present themselves before you. As you do, think about the shepherds out in their fields and listen intently for the message God has for you! Have a great day! Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting TO SEE today?”