In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
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.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Imagine you are a shepherd in Bethlehem. Most nights are pretty slow, for which you are thankful. Your primary job is to lead your sheep to graze in new pastures, and at night, you herd them to sleep in safety, protected from wild animals and thieves. You’ve gathered all your sheep and settled in for an uneventful night. You haven't seen wolves in months, so you should all be safe tonight.
As you drift off to sleep, a heavenly being comes out of nowhere, and you are terrified!The angel says to you, “Do not be afraid,” but of course that does nothing to calm your nerves. Your sheep are spooked and running in every direction, and your handy shepherd’s crook just can’t keep up!
Your silent night just had a major PLOT TWIST!
But God had something better for you than a peaceful night keeping your sheep safe. He brought JOY to the world.
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
When you are caught off guard and things do not go like you expected, it is easy to let your mind race to a terrifying ending. But many times, JOY is waiting just on the other side of fear. What if you jubilantly proclaimed, “PLOT TWIST,” and adamantly searched for the JOY that only God can bring?
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:20
So many of you in our church have gone through devastation this year. Cancer, death, lost jobs, physical and mental decline. Hopelessness creeps in as you struggle to find a silver lining. Christmas may be especially hard for you this year. Let me assure you that God is with you in your grief and sorrow. And God draws us closest when we are the most desperate to feel his presence.
Here is my challenge to you this Christmas: Look for joy. Write down what you are grateful for. Also, be honest with yourself and write down your sorrows: someone not being with you this Christmas, wishing you had a job you loved by now, wishing better for your children, seemingly unanswered prayers for healing.
Sometimes the joy doesn’t come right away, and you have to wait longer than you ever wanted...but the joy will come. Are you committed to searching for God’s JOY beyond the plot twist?