And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
[Luke 2:8-20 NIV]
“How did you expect me to come?” I feel like that is often the question we hear God asking us when He moves in a way we didn’t expect. We often have grand visions in our head of how God will step into our lives, but often that doesn’t match up with how He actually intervenes. I can think of countless times that I have expected God to come in a certain way only to have Him blow up my understanding of who He is by coming in a way I never could have imagined.
At this point in the redemptive mission of God, I’m sure God’s people had all kinds of preconceived notions of what the promised Messiah would be like. I would bet that much of Israel, just like you and me, had grand visions of the Lord coming in power and might and conquering victory. It makes sense. The Jewish people were living under the oppression of the Roman Empire and Herod, a ruthless and unjust ruler. And anytime we feel oppressed we want to be set free, as we should. But often times the way in which God brings us into freedom isn’t how we would expect.
“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” That was the promise of the angel: that the news that he had to bring would cause great joy for all the people. I imagine that when the shepherds heard that they all had different ideas of what this great news could be! If the promise is great joy for ALL people, then it must be absolutely incredible! Are they all being swept up into Heaven? Is God going to give them power to overthrow the Roman Empire? Is God Himself going to come and overthrow the Roman Empire?!
Then the angels said, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” A baby in a feeding trough for animals. That is the sign that all of Israel has been waiting for. All of the shepherds expectations were turned upside down in that instant as they realized that a baby will be the cause of great joy for all the people. The culmination of God’s promise to bring a Messiah, a Savior, fulfilled in an infant. No overthrow of Rome, no power and glory for themselves, just a child.
As the shepherds took in this unexpected news in Scripture says, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” Why are all of these angels singing and praising God for this child? For the shepherds, they suddenly realized that this child is the manifestation of God’s glory. The glory of the Creator of the universe being brought forth through the smallest of things.
The redemption of all of humanity for eternity past and eternity future was introduced through a child. It was everything that creation longed for but did not come in any of the ways it expected. Jesus grew up to be the Savior that we all need, therefore the way in which He entered the world is nothing to be mocked. As you approach Christmas, I implore you to surrender your expectations of how God should move in your life. His glory is fully demonstrated in His mystery. Yes, ask for the things that are on your heart, but fully surrender any expectations of what it must look like. Give Him room to be the God that He is.
God, I just ask that I would be humble to the point that I let You move in my life the way You long to. Move in the small and in the big because it is all for Your glory. Amen.