Joy in our waiting

The second of our reflections written for Advent 2015, focussed on the shepherds and JOY in our waiting.

Luke 2:8-20 (NIV)

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Having likely heard or read it many hundreds of times, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the importance of the various people we encounter in the nativity, and yet the group that God assembles is deeply significant and has so much to teach us. An old and barren but humbly faithful couple. A frightened but courageous teenager. An anxious but committed soon-to-be adoptive dad.

And here, a cluster of unimportant, overlooked, stinky, worthless shepherds.

These shepherds were nobodies. They had no political, economic or social power. In those days, they were the lowest of the low. While they may have potentially valued the sheep in their care, shepherding can’t have been the most pleasant of tasks, and to have consistently endured rejection, scorn and ridicule was surely a challenging and painful way to live.

Yet, out of the whole of society, God chose this group from the bottom rung to tell the earth-shattering, life-changing news: good news that would bring great JOY for ALL people. The shepherds waste no time in going to find Jesus, and then in sharing their joy with whoever they could, glorifying and praising God, and all who heard them were amazed.

But the thing is – nothing changed in their circumstances after the shepherds’ encounter with Jesus. They were still shepherds. Still nobodies. Still overlooked. Still marginalised. Still poor. Still despised by society. Yet within those circumstances, the shepherds clung on to their promised joy, daring to tell the world, and giving all glory to their God that He had deigned to limit Himself in time and space and fragile human flesh to become their Saviour.

Our Saviour.

This JOY is for ALL people. This joy is for you as well – whatever your circumstances, whatever your challenges, whatever your pain.

As adoptive parents and foster families, as kinship carers or social workers – as anyone involved in the care of looked after children – many of us are enduring testing times, challenging behaviours or difficult decisions, and perhaps even having to face similar scorn, ridicule or rejection as those shepherds did. Maybe you are fighting for your adopted child to get the therapy they need, perhaps you are waiting with your foster child for their future plans to be determined, or it could be that just living each day is a challenge right now.

Firstly, we want to say a huge well done to you. As loving parents, carers and advocates, you are defending and upholding the most vulnerable children. Thank you.

And secondly, we want to encourage you and pray for you. As we walk this path, let’s pray for the same overwhelming JOY that filled the shepherds to fill all those who care for looked after children. Even though circumstances may remain challenging, would we each cling on to this joy and let this be our strength and encouragement on the journey (Nehemiah 8:10).

Author:
Home for Good


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