Just before we headed off to bed the other night, I stepped out onto the deck to encourage the dog to follow and take care of her business. My eyes were immediately drawn up and I was suddenly awash in wonderment as I gazed at the bright star-strutted evening skies. I think that it was the first time I had looked to the stars since we moved in. The country view without the blinding glare of city lights was simply amazing! But my astonishment only lasted about one minute as the dog reluctantly came out the door and plodded slowly down the stairs on her way out to the lawn.
You see, one of the cool things about this home is that it has motion sensor lights under the eave’s on each of the four corners of the house as well as a set over the rear door to the garage. Which means that nothing nor no-one can come close to the house without that area of the front or backyard being brightly lit up! As soon as Mandie exited the stairs the lights over the garage door went on and inhibited my clear view of the evening skies.
A few nights later I went into the garage and switched off the power to the lights over the garage door before I let the pooch out. Then when I stepped onto the deck I enjoyed the vast expanse of the heavens over our section of the world in North Carolina.
Two things quickly came to mind as I stood there. First I thought of how much Piper would enjoy this particular view and how she would be standing next to me pointing out all the constellations visible to the naked eye. Years ago she had taught the kids in their homeschool science class about the constellations and during the course of the multi-month project they had memorized their names and locations. She was always quite proud of that class and freely shared her knowledge of the heavens with me every time we would be out in the night!
Secondly I was reminded of Ephesians 1:4 in the Message Bible. It declares a promise of the Lord saying, “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.”
As I gazed at the stars I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the extent of his love for us. The stars were like sparkling little windows of heaven shining forth with the radiant beams of His love for you and me. It made me realize how small I am… and how big He is!
I wonder if the shepherd’s in that pasture outside the town of Bethlehem that special night many years ago were thinking the same thing as they glanced up into the star lit skies? As I stood on our deck, I could almost see the angel of the Lord manifesting himself against the backdrop of God’s gorgeous sets for the plays of our lives!
What would he say to me if he really did appear? What would he say to you if he appeared to you one starry night as you stepped out into the brisk autumn air? Think about it as you read today’s Thursday, the SECOND week of Advent blog post.
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…and HEAR today?”