During Advent, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this fourth week, we are focused on reflections related to the shepherds, based on the Gospel of Luke.
8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. 9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. 18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.
I grew up in rural West Virginia and I remember magical evenings of looking up at the stars. There was so little light pollution that the night sky was bursting with twinkling lights. I could even see the milky way as a band of billions and billions of stars.
I imagine that’s the kind of sky the shepherds in the field would have seen too.
Tonight is the Winter Solstice and is commonly referred to as the Longest Night because there are fewer daylight hours than any other day of the year. Some people do on like this time of year and yearn for the long sunlit summer evenings of July and August. But I love this time of year. I love the cold crisp nights that offer more waking time to gaze to the heavens and see the marvel of God’s universe. I wonder if the shepherds were considering the universe when a figure started to form in the darkness. I imagine starlight gathering into one spot to become the angel bringing good news. How both marvelous and frightening! And then the glory of the Lord shone around the angel. We always envision that as dazzling light, but what if it was the culmination of a billion twinkling stars? And when the multitude joined in, what if it was as if you were engulfed into a nebula and surrounded by the light of the most beautiful light known to space?
By the Rev. Luana Cook Scott
For Pondering & Prayer
Tonight, I want you to consider that even on this Longest Night, even when there is more night than day, that the dark skies are not dark, but filled with beauty and light. Take a moment and look up at the night sky and see that God’s messengers are still telling us to not be afraid and that God is here. Use this long evening to find a quiet moment to reflect and be in the brilliantly decorated night sky and know that even the dark sky is overcome with the light of God with billions of points of light. Look up to see them and remember. Too much light pollution? No problem! Go into a room with a Christmas tree and turn off all the other lights. Take a moment and just consider each light as a star in the night sky. Do not be afraid of this long night, but embrace it, rest, breath, and be joyous that God is born again into our lives.
Prayer: God of Light, twinkle through the darkness to sing to us your Good News this day. Amen.