Our Christmas Playlist through Advent continues this week with the Angel's Song. Take a few minutes this week to imagine what it would have been like for the shepherds in the field when the angels appeared. You'll find this week's first reading below. View previous readings and the entire advent devotional here.
December 14 – December 20
 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
You spend night after night in the stillness and the dark. There is never much out of the ordinary. Someone is always on watch, listening, anticipating a wild animal or a poacher wanting to steal a sheep. The sheep are under your protection. They are your livelihood. You know them. They know you. But, as you wait the night drones on. The darkness and the stillness almost lull you to sleep.
Then, breaking through the darkness comes a great light. Brighter than anything you have ever seen or even could imagine. You cannot even grab your staff or your sling. This is no wild animal. This is an unbelievable sight. The brightness makes you avert your eyes. And suddenly you are filled with an unsettling fear. A fear like nothing you have experienced before. This is unlike anything you have ever encountered. You have chased off wild dogs. You have wrestled away lambs from lions. But, nothing has ever prepared you for the light, the bright shining light. It is more than just light. It is beauty and splendor. It is a light you had only heard of in the great stories of old - from the great prophets Moses and Isaiah. The light is difficult to look upon. Yet, it is difficult to look away from. It is unmistakable. This messenger has come from YAHWEH. Then a voice speaks:
The voice is a comfort. A gentle calm in the midst of a raging fury. These two simple words ease all the tension. Then the voice speaks again:
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
“What good news could this be,” you think to yourself. What kind of news requires a heavenly announcement? What kind of good news comes to shepherds? You don’t say a word out loud. You listen:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
You think for a moment you might be hearing things. Did the voice say a Savior who is Christ the Lord? This voice out of heaven is proclaiming the Messiah to be born? How can this be? you ask.
And with that, the whole sky lit up. The light shone brighter and the voices rang louder than before:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
You gaze around at your family and others with you. You know this could not be a dream because they saw and heard it too.
“Let’s go,” everyone begins to agree together. “Let’s see if there is a new baby in Bethlehem.”
You leave all of your belongings in the field. You gather your family, and you run. There is no time for walking because somehow you believe. You know the words you heard are true. And, because of that, this is the greatest news you have ever heard.
Imagine together what it may have been like for the shepherds on the night Jesus was born. Imagine the darkness and the light. Imagine what it smelled like. Imagine how cold it was. Try to put yourself in their shoes.
Think about the two words the angel first spoke to them, “Fear Not!” What are some things you fear? Why? The good news of Jesus lets us know we do not have to fear anything. Isaiah 41:10 says, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The Promise of Jesus was that he would be Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Next time you are afraid, remember who Jesus is - “God with Us.” You do not have to be afraid.
Jesus, thank you for leaving your heavenly throne to become one of us, to be with us, to walk with us, to talk with us. Help us not to fear when things in our lives are scary and overwhelming. Help us to trust that you are with us and that we are yours.