Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign. AMEN.
– from Christina Rossetti
Scripture. Luke 2:20.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Hearing Angels’ Voices. From Rev. Marie Wonders.
My advent companion is one of the magi (so, indulge me in a rabbit trail conversation involving magi and I promised to get back to today’s companion, the shepherds). I imagine it could have been very frustrating for the magi to bring their gifts to Jesus. They must have had some preconceived idea of what it would be like to meet Jesus. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have assembled costly gifts, or visited Herod to ask where Jesus was.
If I were a magi, I would imagine myself, dressed to the nines, elaborately presenting my beautifully prepared gift in a lovely setting. I would imagine the reaction of the parents receiving the gift, “Oh, Myrrh! It’s just what we’ve always wanted!”
Instead, they cannot find Jesus where they expect him to be. Can you imagine wandering to and fro trying to find Jesus with all your Sunday best on? I would get annoyed. I might even give up looking.
Contrast the magi’s journey to see Jesus with the shepherd’s journey. The shepherds have no preconceived notions about visiting the Messiah. They are simply and patiently sitting out at night, keeping watch over their sheep. Then, they are interrupted in a way far more glorious and with much more clear instruction than the magi get. They are visited by an angel and then see many angels bursting into praise. Like the scene where Jacob has a vision of stairs and angels going up and down on it in Genesis, the shepherds are given a glimpse of the angel’s activities in the spiritual realm. They journey quickly to where they are supposed to—and see Jesus right away, just like the angels said.
I think of the role patience and joy played in both the magi’s and shepherd’s journeys. The kings had to employ patience as they searched for Jesus. The Shepherds were not patiently searching, just patiently awake in the night, doing their jobs. Open and awake in the dark and the quiet. Able to receive this message from the angels.
As a reward for their patience, both received joy. The kings “rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” and the shepherds “glorified and praised God” when they saw Jesus and his family.
Diana Bulter Bass wrote in a tweet from December 16:
“Joy isn’t merely happiness (a point that many people make). And it isn’t just lighting a candle in the darkness, but something more…more…transcendent. Sacred. Ineffable. And it has something to do with waiting for God, for hope and love to be born.”
I often want to fast-forward to joy, but joy comes organically. Sometimes as a surprise, sometimes after aimlessly wandering to and fro. But when joy does come, it is genuine, a link to all that is true and lovely and good. I can’t help thinking that Shepherds, or all people who patiently wait in calm and un-hurriedness, who cultivate space and quiet within their lives and themselves are the most able to be ready to hear the angels voices.
What patient journey are you called into today? Persistent patience like the magi, journeying in the literal and figurative dark, unsure if you will ever get anywhere? Or, faithful patience? Patiently in the dark with little to do, but open and aware?
Closing Prayer. God, may your joy come to us in the midst of our lives. Spirit, may you cultivate within us the ability to fashion the quiet that is needed to hear the angels voices. Amen.