Shepherds—in the Field, Making Tracks

Christmas Travelers

8shepherdsThere they were, minding their own business (which was sheep) and the most astounding event in their shepherding career burst upon them. Never had they imagined an angel visitation, much less a host of worshiping angels. How astounding was that sight, that sound on an otherwise routine night? What they saw and heard was like nothing they ever experienced or would experience again.

After telling the terrified shepherds to not fear and then sharing the secret of the ages, the angel added this caveat, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” He didn’t have to say, “Go.” Of course they would go! Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t I?

But I wonder if I would go now, today. Would I check my calendar? Would I schedule a visit? Would I go before I bought a gift? Maybe I should pray about it first.

How much do I miss by checking things out, preparing, scheduling, getting ready? The shepherds didn’t pause. They said, “Let’s go…”

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. (Luke 2:15-18)

They went—actually, they hurried. They found Jesus. They spread the word. And those who heard it were amazed!

Like those simple men on the Judean hills, let’s not complicate our response but hasten to discover truth and spread the word.

We have a thrilling Christmas message—let’s hurry off and amaze some people, today.

Angel Travelers on a Mission

Christmas Travelers

Annunciation to the Shepherds

Did you ever try to imagine what it was like in heaven when Jesus was born on earth? We have no idea how much the angels understood about God’s glorious provision for man’s salvation, but they were heaven-dwellers who lived in Jesus’ company. Even with limited understanding they must have sensed something big was happening—something earth-shattering. At the climax of this world’s history, the angels were sent on their greatest mission yet, as told in Luke two. An angel traveled to earth to deliver the most significant message of all time,

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

The angel’s astounding, earth-changing news could not wait for Mary to recover, for Joseph to notify family, or for the shepherds to prepare. This good news of incredible joy happened that day—same-day delivery before the days of internet, texts, and tweets. They declared it in the heavens, proclaiming to men the Messiah had come!

Heaven and earth had waited long enough and now “the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). The angel traveled to earth to announce the birth of the long-awaited Messiah, and he didn’t come alone.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

Lord, fill us today with unrestrained angel-like joy that impels us to declare the Christmas message to the common shepherds in our lives. And let our praise be glorious!

For fascinating reading about what could have been Heaven’s perspective, I highly recommend The Birth by Gene Edwards.

Mary, Joseph & a Donkey without MapQuest

Christmas Travelers

6myriams-fotos_pixabayWhich is harder to imagine?

  • A trip on a four-legged beast without heat, reclining seats or a radio?
  • Heading anywhere without MapQuest or Google Maps?

Complicate the scenario with a first-time, full-term pregnancy; a journey not for pleasure but required by unjust law; and an unspecified destination with no room reservations.

Joseph and Mary set out on their arduous journey with all of those complications in full play:

  • The supernatural pregnancy was not sought, expected, or fully comprehended. It was rife with social and relational challenges, stretching the couple’s faith in God and their commitment to each other.
  • The decree was unreasonable, inconvenient, and burdensome, ordered by a Godless Roman unjustly governing a land that belonged to the Jews.
  • They traveled to the town of Joseph’s lineage, knowing the route but no details—and without layette, bassinet, or midwife.

And, yet, the God who goes before them (and us) was present. Though the particulars of overbooked lodgings, an unsanitary delivery room, and a feeding-trough-cradle appall us, God had orchestrated those details, just as He orchestrates ours.

It may be that you’re also traveling an unfamiliar road, in trying circumstances, dealing with inadequate conditions. Be assured of this—God is present on the journey, covering the details, offering grace, and awaiting your arrival.

And, who knows? There may be angels, shepherds, and gift-bearers somewhere in your future.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Traveling: What’s in YOUR suitcase?

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No, I’m not referring to a Capital One credit card (What’s in your wallet?) or American Express (Don’t leave home without it). I’m asking, what are the critical items you pack for a trip?

Several years ago our family was spending a weekend down the shore. Rich and I had one night alone before everyone else arrived, therefore our son David rode with his brother, Shane, and sister-in-law, Amy. As they sped down the parkway, Amy asked David if he brought a CD to play. Immediately he produced a paper grocery bag half-filled with CDs, all without cases—he had enough listening hours for a cross-country trip. Forget the favorite hoodie, bathing suit, comfy pillow—he packed what was most important to him. And we do the same.

We don’t want to be weighed down with excess luggage or pay to check a suitcase, so we pack what’s important to us. We think it through, plan carefully, and eliminate what is unnecessary.

Whether traveling down the shore or along life’s shores, we make choices that will eliminate the frivolous and include the necessary. I want to be as diligent in my life journey as I am in my local travels. I don’t know about you, but my luggage is heavy with things that are good, but they’ve displaced those that are best. I want to disencumber myself, live simpler, clear my mind, eliminate distractions, and live focused.

What can we eliminate to make our Christian walk more joyful, more effective? What is needful to simplify our journey and clarify our purpose?

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1,2)

Photo from Borodinova@pixabay

Traveling: Layovers, Pit Stops & Roadside Dives

hale@pixabay.com

I remember when my husband and I headed to our son’s school for Family Weekend with lots of anticipation—but no hotel reservations. As first-time college parents, we didn’t realize what a big deal this weekend was and how quickly hotels filled up. We settled for the only motel with a vacancy and soon understood why.

It was “fully furnished”—polyester curtains from the 50’s, a faded bedspread, decrepit bathroom, crank-out windows, and the pervasive odor of ethnic food. I left a light on and laid on the lumpy mattress, trying desperately to find sleep and hasten our morning departure.

Although this happened many years ago and we survived unscathed, I never forgot that night in the Lamplighter Motel. The experience yielded two worthy results:

  1. I never forget to make reservations before we travel.
  2. I always try to view the temporal in light of the eternal.

Setbacks (such as layovers, pit stops and roadside dives—or delays, troubles, and unpleasant conditions) vie for center stage where the spotlight magnifies our discomfort, embarrassment, or inconvenience. But when we regard situations in view of eternity, we see how brief, and therefore tolerable, our difficulties are.

All our afflictions are temporary. All our rewards are eternal. Every lengthy bout with illness, every drawn-out legal battle, every day we live missing someone we love, is a single night in the Lamplighter Motel. And that, we can endure!

Lord, refine our vision that we may see life in the light of eternity.

Therefore we do not lose heart… 
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, 
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Photo by Hale at Pixabay.com

Traveling: People Along the Path

 

We are fellow travelers, you and I, each taking different roads, riding in different vehicles, and following different itineraries. Some travel at a leisurely pace, others are destination driven. Whatever our style, we all meet people along the way, which can be a bane or a blessing.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

People can fill us or drain us, enrich us or deplete us. Either way, they’re unavoidable and part of God’s plan for our journey. Did I just hear a collective sigh? I could respond with comments about setting parameters or suggest possible purposes why God put them in our path, but instead, let’s look in a different direction.

Am I a blessing to the people along my path—all of them, not just friends and A-listers?

Our son David has taught me a lot about accepting people. David is disabled, a 38-year-old child with an uncomplicated, trusting view of everyone he meets. He embraces strangers and kisses the hands of waitresses. He is never put off by class, needs, or ethnicity. Like his dad, a stranger is simply a friend he’s not yet met.

And David prays for everyone—the sad, the sick, the troubled, the teen, the imprisoned, the addicted, the challenged, and those on the front page of the newspaper. On David’s life journey, each person he sees (whether or not he’s introduced) is worthy of his friendship and intercession. I think disabled is a relative term.

When I grow up, I want to be like David.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Traveling: Disturbing Detours

2detour

Detour! Are you kidding me? I was already late.

Detours—on the road or in life—don’t shorten because we’re inconvenienced. Frustratingly, life is filled with them. As good as our planned path may be, the new home is deferred, the degree takes too long, the pregnancy is delayed, an opportunity eludes us, financial relief is too far off, or the medical procedure is too lengthy.

Life doesn’t come with GPS. The abrupt appearance of detours, usually unexpected and often irksome, is never welcome. But wouldn’t we be better served if we accepted them as part of life? Think about it, detours are not there to harass us but to keep us from danger and get us safely to our destination.

They take us down roads we would not commonly travel—through unacquainted neighborhoods, along undiscovered back-roads, past unfamiliar scenery. When eyes are open and hearts are pliable, detours can lead to discoveries we would otherwise miss, on the road and in life.

We travel two roads—one leads through the hills and valleys of this temporal world, the other is a sure path to a new and eternal earth, one without detours. Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going…I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:4,6).

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Proverbs 4:18

…with no detours

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