The red bird in my back yard that caught my breath the other day has gotten me thinking.  Here’s part of my plan for a sermon this week on Luke’s story of the angels’ appearing to the shepherds:

Angels were, among other things, God’s messenger system.  Like power lines spreading from the source to every lightbulbed room they go forth from the throne of God to spread word – the things God would say to humans if the hearing of it wouldn’t break their eardrums or God’s very presence destroy them by sheer purity and righteousness – holiness – complete otherness.  But they must hear.  Some things can’t be guessed at, and must be revealed: good news.  Great joy.  For all the people.  Today!  A Savior!  Born to you.  The Messiah.  The Lord.  A baby.  A manger.

 Clarity.  Such clarity.  Then as if there was just one question left hanging in the air the angel is joined by a dynamic, exploding crew of messengers bursting forth with the one large answer left in the mind of the hearers.  The question must have been, “Is this God?”  Or “Do I worship this being?”  And the answer came back resoundingly, in a way I can only imagine would have shaken the very innards of boys, girls, young and old men alike along with the sheep they feebly guarded in this pasture, “Glory to God!”  Not us.  Don’t lift us above the one who sent us so that you wouldn’t die in the holy presence.

 Oh, and by the way, “Peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”  Peace.  “I’ll know peace when you stop terrifying me with your otherworldliness and leave me to contemplate your message,” they must have thought.  Then, in what must have felt complete darkness in the angels’ absence, the least of these looked at each other and exhaled with a nervous laughter – a smile that said “we’re alive” and teeth that parted to say, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Clarity.  Such clarity.  Everything else wiped aside.  All other thoughts, concerns, pains, arguments, worries about the future, brokenness from yesterday – everything blurred and pushed to the side in the precision and laser-focused clarity given by the news from these…these…voices, these figures, these messengers.  Their brightness, their electric presence, when extinguished left all else in darkness except their message – still burning phosphorous in our minds: The Messiah!  A manger!

Clarity.  Such clarity.  Here is a God who knows how to speak to people in a pre-fireworks light show and using language every Israelite knew “The Messiah” and every shepherd understood “A manger.”  Just people doing what they do in the middle of their every day, every night life.  And God breaks in with clarity and burns off everything else in dramatic power leaving a heart pounding his message in the silence of his messengers’ absence.

Has this happened to you?  Let us listen more closely, for while the night sky may not light up the way it did that night in the pastures, God still wants to give clarity.  And we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves hijacked in the middle of the night or in the middle of our figurative night.

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