While they were there, the time came for her to
deliver her child. 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. In that region there were shepherds
living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then
an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around
them, and they were terrified. 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:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the
Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a
child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And
suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising
God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth
peace among those whom he favors!” 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.”
SNOW DAY!!! One of the most with for highlights of the holiday season is a white Christmas. There's nothing more magical that waking up on Christmas morning to a fresh blanket of snow! But lately, they have been few and far between.In fact, the experience of a white Christmas- which according to the National Weather Service, is a Christmas with at least one inch of snow on the ground- has been growing more infrequent over the past half century, especially in the northeast.The chance of having a white Christmas in New Jersey is now less than 23%.Snowfall totals have dropped by an average of 8.8 inches across the region since 1998, and the number of days with at least 1 inch of snow on the ground decreased by nine days on average.
It follows then, as we are annually seeing less snow on the whole in the northeast, so has the possibility of the much beloved "snow day."
Many of us hold dear the childhood memories of a snow day- which, if I'm not dating myself too much, usually came as a surprise. When I was raising my own kids, and being the spouse of a public school teacher, even a scant rumor of snow often found our family hovering near the living room where the tv... we went about our daily routine, but with regular periodic glances at the glowing box of prophecy in the corner... and then it happens...
It begins when the words * * * W I N T E R S T O R M W A R N I N G * * * start to tick across the bottom of the screen. A switch flips, and something magical happens to us down to our core. Squeals of anticipation- expectation- preparation- and then... a waiting.
And perhaps for everyone from school age kids to working adults- anyone who has felt the pressure of the day-to-day grind- the routine of life- study, tests, projects, deadlines, meetings, shopping, driving- and there is no end in sight- when every day brings something that you HAVE to do- we feel the longing a little deeper...
And so, in hope, we keep watch, and all of a sudden, the Doppler radar map turns white! And it happens- there is a possibility- that even if it’s only for one day- everything will come to a screeching halt!
And we begin to picture the magic in our minds- Oh it will be great... we can stay nestled all snug in our beds, while snow blankets the ground outside- and right out of a scene from a Christmas story- we'll wake up, and with expectation, rush to the window pane and rub the frost away so we can see our corner of the world transformed into a winter wonderland.And it hits… its real…Snow Day!
And all the things we HAD to do that day wisp upward into thin air with the steam from our first cup of hot chocolate- and we settle in to the enchantment and warmth of enjoying our day of freedom- Good News! Someone or something bigger and more powerful than human begins has lifted the burden of the day off our shoulders- And we are filled with this Great Joy! An act of God has altered the world as we know it- and whether we are 6 or 60 we feel like shouting- Snow Day!
Long ago there were some shepherds out in a field- doing what shepherds do- tending the sheep.Shepherds, in the first century were the dregs of the community.They ranked in class, somewhere just above lepers.They were considered the disposable ones of society. All the scenes we see of shepherds lazing in fields meditating while their white fluffy sheep graze on lush green grass are far from realistic.The life of a shepherd was hard- in that area of the middle east, narrow strips of grass are found only between rocky dangerous terrain- the land is dry and parched, yet the sheep will only drink from still pools of water- so most of the shepherd's day is spent looking for food and water.
However, predators stalk the herds day and night- lions, bears, wild dogs- and the sheep can’t protect themselves- so it is the shepherd that defends them.The hours are long and many times they go without sleeping at all- not a glamour job for sure- this was work for the ‘nobodys’ of society.
You know them in our world... the ones who's service is needed, and from whom others make money, but for the most part, go unnoticed, and are, for the most part- dispensable… they take the jobs no one wants... they are the ones we don’t want to be- and don't want our children to grow up to be.
And as for anyone at the very bottom of the societal ladder, each day passes, the probability of life improving for the shepherds… drops. So here they are in the dark; unacceptable, unworthy, and unholy- and all is quiet as they wait out the night in a field of hopelessness.
But then, in the middle of the night in the middle of the field in the middle of the flock- words begin to tick across the sky… An Angel Appears- and says “Good News!Something bigger and more powerful than human beings is about to lift the burden off your shoulders… Great Joy! An act of God is about to alter the world and bring life as you know it to a screeching halt!”
And the news is so great, that the other angels waiting in the wings can’t contain themselves and they all flutter in as the Doppler map flashes white- and there is singing and shouting “Glory to God in the Highest! Glory! Glory! Snow Day! It’s a Snow Day!!!”
And the shepherds drop what they are doing and in expectation they rush to the manger and rub the frost off the window pane to see the gift- and there he is… nestled all snug in his swaddling clothes, while glistening hope blankets the earth.The hope that will transform the world… darkness to light- oppression to liberty- burden to freedom…sin to righteousness- sorrow to joy- and bring everlasting peace…
For the shepherds in our midst- and you don’t have to be considered worthless by society to feel like a shepherd, amen?You don’t have to be in a low paying, dangerous job to feel like a shepherd.You can have a great job, and a great family, and great health and security and financial freedom and houses and cars and soccer games and music lessons… you can have all the things and be all the things that society expects you to have and to be… and still feelunacceptable- or unworthy- or unholy.
And those feelings may not be what shows up on Sunday mornings at church- those feelings may not be what shows up at the office, or on the soccer field or in the classroom.They may lurk somewhere in the inner core of who we are, or what we have been taught to believe about ourselves, and what we have been taught to believe about our God.We see our own probability of things changing for our spiritual lives… drop… That somehow, we were either born, or have become unacceptable… if not to society, than certainly to God.That maybe because we don’t come to church every week, or give a lot of money, or pray a lot, or because of the things we think, or say or do… that we are somehow disposable- that our value in God’s eyes is less than someone else’s… or at least we are not what God wanted us to grow up to be…
But… are you ready? Because my beloved congregation of Christ, look here… watch the words begin to tick across the screen.Good News!Something bigger and more powerful than human beings is about to lift the burden of oppression off of your shoulders.Great Joy! An act of God is about to alter the world and bring life as you know it to a screeching halt!You, my friends are about to be given a gift…as you’re waiting out the night in the field of hopelessness- Don’t be afraid! For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior- which is Christ the Lord- and he will be for all people- the light that shines in the darkness-
And it doesn’t matter if you come to church once a year or once a week! It doesn’t matter if you give one dollar or one thousand dollars! It doesn’t matter if you’ve prayed once in your life or once an hour! God is giving this gift to you! Open your heart to it and watch the Doppler turn white! Believe and hear the joyous cries of the angels- singing ‘ Glory to God in the Highest! Glory! Snow day! God is giving YOU a snow day! Not just today, not just Christmas Day, but every single day!
And when you begin to get that- when you start to come to the realization that you are God’s masterpiece- that God loves you and cherishes you and holds you and cares for you as a mother holds and cares for her newborn baby… and loves you that way exactly as you are right now- and you rush in anticipation to the window pane and rub away the frost so you can see it- you will see life transformed- blanketed in glistening hope- turning your darkness to light, your burden to freedom, sadness to joy, and have everlasting peace.