This week I’ve been keeping watch. I’ve been up at three am, four am, lots of times. Because there’s been this…I don’t know how to explain it properly. But it’s like I knew something was coming.
I cannot help but think of the shepherds, out there watching their sheep. Maybe worried about bears or wolves or whatever. Maybe tired. Maybe sick of being shepherds. Have you ever sat and thought about the fact that it would be really hard to rest as a shepherd? You’ve got to be ready like…like all the time. Because it’s night and they’re still keeping watch. Maybe it had been a really, really stressful week and they felt like they were just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hoping it wouldn’t be insurmountable. But maybe they had an inkling.
So it’s maybe not the most surprising thing when something starts to go wrong. But suddenly there’s all this light in the sky. And we get it. They were ‘sore afraid’. We gloss over that, maybe? I bet it was terrifying. I bet they thought the end had come. Because that isn’t supposed to happen.
And in a way it’s almost a relief. When the anxiety and panic and dread have gotten to a certain point you can almost feel vindicated by the disaster. You don’t have to sit, tensed like a cat, waiting for it to come. It’s here, and you can face it. Finally. It might even make you brave.
Not that brave people always do the right thing. Sometimes brave people really make a mess of things (but maybe that’s what it takes for you to be honest). But maybe the shot in the arm when it finally comes is what you need to keep from imploding. Whether you’re a little angry or whatever…maybe you just really, really need to be brave. And in the moment between dread and reality…it might make you brave.
I wonder if they had a plan to fight it, whatever the light making thing was. I kind of bet they did. How many nights must they have stayed up, talking about the fear and the what ifs? Planning for this very moment? So when it came, I’m almost certain they had a split second of thinking about like…maybe a slingshot or something.
And then the words. Something about not being afraid. A lot of instructions about some baby, and mankind, and it had to be at least a little bit confusing. But maybe part of it sort of clicked. Like…”we’ve prayed for this. We’ve waited for this Messiah. And as scary as this is, maybe this is what we’ve been waiting for. Not dreading. Hoping for.” (I cannot think of anything better than this. The roses when you sowed thistles. The salvation that looked like destruction).
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[c]
And it will bring God glory. You live your whole shepherd life afraid of something coming in the night. But it does, and it’s about so much more than you imagined. And it’s about peace.
I know I’m reaching. But I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really, really feel like a shepherd. Like what I thought was definitely a disaster has actually been a harbinger of something different than I might have expected. Something that can glorify God.
And bring peace. Typing those words, my eyes are tearing up again (and I’m so tired of crying today). How many times have I asked for it?
(among those with whom He is pleased. I’m…I’m taking it a bit out of context. But it feels for all the world like Aslan telling Lucy he won’t always be scolding, because she’s been faithful. Not that I have been, you know in general. But maybe I really, really needed a hug because I’ve been here at least, and it’s cost a lot).
I don’t know how much you are capable of reading into this. Maybe you know exactly what I’m referring to. Maybe you are totally confused.
But probably you are waiting for some things. Maybe it’s with dread. Afraid the other shoe will fall on you and flatten you. Tear up everything that’s left. Maybe it’s with hope and longing. Wishing for salvation, or peace.
It’s advent (okay I know it isn’t really advent. Trust me. But it’s close, and like I said a couple days ago I need advent early this year. Roll with it). We celebrate because Heaven came to earth, and what might have been terrifying condemnation was instead a whisper of peace and hope. The fulfillment of a favorite promise.
Maybe it will come with fire, and you will be sore afraid. I am praying that in the moment… it might make you brave.
(for those of you who know what I’m talking about: It is going to be okay. Maybe more than that. I just sort of needed to say so.)