Series: Christmas Presence
Message: Unwrapping the Presence
Preacher: Jenniffer Ogden
Reflection: J. Murdock
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Vanessa Alarcon
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Luke 2:1-19 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: A theme begins to emerge as we read through the early chapters of Luke. Note that there is a common response as people experience the presence of the Lord in the many ways God arrives to meet with His creation.
It’s jarring to walk into a space designed to be empty of people and find that you aren’t alone. It’s wild to have a conversation with an angel when you believe that the Holy Spirit has been inactive in four hundred years. It’s a strange encounter to be met with a multitude of heavenly hosts singing a chorus in the sky when a moment ago it was just you, a couple of friends, and a few dozen sheep.
Somehow, the visitors knew to expect them to be staggered by their arrival, and so their first words echo through time as they all start their introductions with the words, “Fear not.”
Somehow, the sequence always seems to be out of order for the angels, as Scripture tells us that the humans beat the angels to the first line. “Fear not” is always said in response to the fear that is already present and never before fear sets in.
Why the fear? God should be expected to arrive. But somehow we forget that in our daily walk because of our habitual belief that because nothing amazing happened yesterday or the day before, nothing amazing will happen today. The routine becomes mechanical. But from God’s vantage point, He is always moving and acting in the world in ways that are anything but monochrome. We forget that, and when color emerges in our lives we aren’t ready for the technicolor dream we step into.
Once we invite God into our hearts and ask Him to order our steps, the expectation is to let that decision permeate our every movement so we keep Jesus in the forefront of our minds. But the task is easier said than done with all of the expectations of holding down our responsibilities. But God is still moving in the mind-numbing moments when we look away. And when we are working with God in accordance with His design, it can be fear-inducing to be reminded of His presence. We characterize it as sudden and without warning. But fear not, God has been with you the whole way in a myriad of ways you may not be privy to when your focus diverts from the Lord.
Fear not, for behold, God brings you good news of great joy.
Recalibrate: How can you keep the seasonal cheer in your life going throughout the year, keeping the Gospel in focus and expecting God to be present in your life?
Respond: Pray that God will be a presence in your life in wonderful and amazing ways, and that fear will not be your first response to knowing that God has been and will be with you all the days of your life.
Research: Read Setting Priorities: How to Keep the First Things First.
Remember: “But the angel reassured them, saying, ‘Do not be afraid. For I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere!’” (Luke 2:10, ICB).
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Gather together some Christmas paper, decorations, and cards. If you little one is able, help them cut out shapes and glue pictures onto a box or some cardboard. Use cotton balls to make baby lambs and tinsel to make stars. Use their toys to help tell the story of Christmas.
This week we have watched kids tell the story of Jesus’ birth. We have a little more than a year until next Christmas when we celebrate His birthday again. How would you tell the Christmas story? Would you draw pictures or ask your friends to help act it out or would you sing a song and make up some cool dance moves? Whatever you choose to do, do it because you love Jesus so much you want the whole world to know His story.
So the angel tells the shepherds that Jesus had been born and also told them how to find Him. As soon as the angels leave, the shepherds all agree that they must go meet Jesus. I am not sure if some of them didn’t want to go or some volunteered to stay behind and continue tending to their sheep. But after seeing something so magical, I would think many of them wanted to go and see the baby Jesus. The field was near the stable so they probably didn’t need to go too far to find Him. When God called, they answered.
As I mentioned two days ago, it’s very, very likely that a lot of the members of the entourage that left the sheep in the field to go to the stable were women and children. It’s an interesting thought, but it really doesn’t matter. Women, children, middle-aged men—who cares? What counts is that they are remembered with honor for one thing: “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass.” That’s why we remember them. They went. They got up and left their comfort zone, believing the words of strangers (granted, remarkable strangers!) in the hopes that worthless little Bethlehem had become the center of the universe. They went. They took a long, long look. They saw a baby. They didn’t see a halo or angels playing harps next to the goats. They saw a baby—and were convinced that this was the baby. That was enough to make “known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” Can’t you see some eight-year-old shepherd being really animated as he told his grandpa the story—and then later that evening telling his sheep the same thing?
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Vanessa Alarcon is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on addiction treatment in Denver, Colorado. She also serves as the Faith Engagement Pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.