AWAKE WITH THE SHEPHERDS
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
-- Phillips Brooks
That everlasting Light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it. It was in the darkness of night that the Light of the world, conceived by the Holy Spirit, came; how appropriate. But the little town of Bethlehem slept through the event of the ages – no headlines, no parades, no fanfare.
Quietly and unheralded by humanity, the Son of God entered our race and embarked upon His divine mission to save us from our folly and from the Almighty’s solemn justice. The plan of the ages was unfolding – the wonder of priests, the marvel of prophets, and the joy of angels. Yet, Bethlehem, along with people everywhere, slept on. If only their eyes had been open, ears listening, and the lanterns of their hearts trimmed and ready.
Can anyone, however, blame this little town of Bethlehem? What a day, what a week it had been. At the command of Caesar Augustus, people from all over the Roman Empire traveled to their hometowns to be counted in the census. Bethlehem was swamped with travelers. Businesses of all kinds hustled and bustled. The world’s clamor surely had diverted the eyes of those in Bethlehem off anything spiritual taking place. And now they slept in well-earned peace until the dawning of the next very busy day. Indeed, could anyone blame them?
But, oh, praise the Lord! Someone was awake that night! “And in the region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8).
Hallelujah! The angels had someone to whom they could make their glad announcement. What if these men, too, had been sleeping? There’d be no one with whom the angels could share their joy, no heavenly vision and proclamation, no one running to the stable in exuberant anticipation; no human hearts worshiping and adoring the newborn King that special night. One of the most inspiring accounts in God’s Word would be missing! We owe the shepherds so much! God bless the shepherds!
What about us during this season? The streets today are not unlike the hectic streets of Bethlehem. Many today are caught in a whirlwind, others are tense and irritable, some are bone weary. Added to the lesser distractions are the major ones affecting us all – Covid, inflation, enemies within and without, societal breakdown, and so much more. The busyness of the season helps us brush off the turmoil swirling in the air about us, but we know this is but a temporary diversion.
The devil has done his job well. In such a state, can any clear their mind and quiet their emotions enough to gain a heartfelt awareness of this season’s true significance? Temporal preoccupation will cause most to shut down spiritually – just like the previous year and those preceding it. In weariness, they have fallen into a spiritual slumber from which even God Himself cannot arouse.
Again, what about us? Will the season steal our energy and devotion? Will we sleep with fatigue? Or will we keep watch with the shepherds, who, sitting beneath the stars on the Bethlehem slope, saw the most magnificent display mortals ever have witnessed? And not only this, but that first Christmas night the eternal Father summoned these scruffy, common men to celebrate with Him at His beloved Son’s imponderably shoddy yet precious cradle.
Whenever God’s appointed hour comes, when He sends His Spirit with a miracle, He always chooses what is available to Him – whether it be a peasant couple, lowly shepherds, a manger bed, or us. Let’s pray, then, that we don’t miss our moment, that the Holy Spirit comes to keep us awake and burning with anticipation. Perhaps in surprised joy we, too, will find that God fulfilled through us some unfathomable eternal breakthrough event that changes the world around us for His glory.
Let us be awake!
Let us be watching!
Let us be worshiping!
“Lord Jesus, our beloved Friend and Savior, this Christmas we offer You the gift of our love and allegiance. You are the one we celebrate, and we want to keep You the focal point of Your season. By Your Spirit, awaken us from spiritual slumber. Infuse us with the same awe and reverence the angels and shepherds had, let us collapse in worship before You. For all You already mean to us and all You will mean to us as eternity unfolds, we praise You and offer You the gift of ourselves. Amen!”
If this article encouraged you, and you feel it will encourage others, please forward it. Unfortunately, I've had trouble with my comments section and have lost most, but I’d love to hear from you in the comments section and see that this function is now working properly. Oh, and please don't forget to consider my books at the Books link. They make spiritually enriching gifts!
Thanks and God bless!