Great Plains Daily Devotional for 12/24/2020

Today please be in prayer for

Lincoln Saint Paul UMC
Blue River District
Lincoln South Gate UMC
Blue River District
Lincoln St Luke UMC
Blue River District
Lincoln St Mark's UMC
Blue River District

Today's Lectionary Text

Luke 2:4-20

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Today's Devotional

Sometimes to understand a passage better, I imagine how it might have taken place. I did that in preparation for this devotion and below is what I came up with:
The time had come for the Christ Child to be born. Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem and because there was no room at the Inn, they could not find decent lodging. So, they stayed in the stable along with cattle, sheep, and donkeys.
The smell of hay and manure lingered in the air. But after a long journey, Mary and Joseph were grateful for a place to spend the night. If they were looking forward to a pleasant night’s sleep, they were going to be disappointed. Mary said to Joseph, “It’s time.” And soon the sounds of livestock were mixed with the sounds of a woman giving birth.
Out in a nearby field, some shepherds were watching their flocks. A fire was burning to provide warmth and light. The sky was clear, and the air was crisp and cool. The shepherds were on the alert for predators, paying attention to the sounds of sheep in trouble.
In that era and culture, they were symbolic of an unwanted and undesirable people. Because of their contact with sheep and manure, they were regarded as unclean and therefore restricted from worshiping in the temple. Even if they could wash before going to worship, they had to work or were too far away. Because they could not worship, the religious elite regarded them as heathens. But the religious elite enjoyed eating mutton and wearing clothing made from wool.
Shepherds were only one class of heathens. Also included were tax collectors, Samaritans, and anyone else who did not measure up to the religious elite’s qualifications for purity. But on this night, there was room for the heathen shepherds. An angel from on high had come to them to announce the birth of Jesus. The sky was painted with glorious angel light. The shepherds were not accustomed to such sights. They knew it was uncommon for a human like creature to hover in the air. They were terrified. “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see I am bringing good news of great joy for all the people...’”
It sounded too good to be true. For as long as they had been shepherds, they had been excluded. The angel continued: “to you is born...” There it was again, inclusion instead of exclusion. To them, someone had been born. But who was this person? The angel said something about this person being a “Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Could this be the Messiah, which the prophets had foretold? Could deliverance from the Romans be at hand? No, how could a child lead an army to rid the land of the Romans? This Messiah was going to be different from what everyone was expecting.
Next the angel was joined by a host of angels. The sky was exceedingly bright with angel light. It was as if the sun had risen. The angels started to praise God. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” It sure seemed God favored shepherds and other heathens. Their exile had come to an end. There was now room for them in God’s house. It was time to rejoice. So, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Meanwhile, back at the stable, the Christ Child had been born. There were no royal garments to receive him; only his mother’s lap and the hay on which she lay. We’re not told about any heavenly celebration, which occurred in the stable that night, but there must have been a heavenly multitude of saints and angels present to rejoice. We can only imagine the sights and sounds that were witnessed by Mary and Joseph. Even the cattle, sheep, and donkeys must have known that something extraordinary had happened.
The shepherds hurried to the stable. Like the three kings would later do, they followed the star, which shined above the stable. They marveled at the lack of pomp and circumstance, which normally would accompany the presence of royalty. But they could sense a holy presence.
So, they entered the stable as if they were entering a palace. Soon, they spotted Mary and Joseph and taking a few more steps, they saw the newborn king. Perhaps still feeling the need to keep their distance from all things holy; they did not get too close. So, from a reverent distance, they told Mary and Joseph all about what they had witnessed. Then they felt the loving presence of the newborn king. It seemed he was beckoning them to come close. They were moved with feelings of great joy. But being men of rough and tumble stock, they did their best to hold back their tears. However, when the child looked on them with eyes so pure, they broke down and knelt in humble praise. In their hearts they knew, there was room for them. This newborn king had torn up the “no vacancy” sign and replaced it with a “welcome” sign.
Like I said at the outset, this is a product of my imagination. Who knows how the events of that first Christmas Eve occurred. But in my imagination, I have a pretty good idea. May you all be blessed this Christmas. The Christ child is a gift for everyone.
-Rev. Scott Hannon
Retired Elder
Wichita, KS

Prayer for Reflection

God, during this Christmas, we celebrate with a feeling of loss. The burden of avoiding being infected by COVID-19 has encouraged us to celebrate differently. Help us to receive your gift of the Christ child with joy and thanksgiving. It is his name that we pray. Amen.


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