Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Too big. Too tight.
Already have it. Doesn’t work.
Not needed. Not my style.
Seriously, what were they thinking?!
For these and many other reasons, the days after Christmas are the busiest “return” days of the year. Have you stood in a long return line at Target, Kohl’s or elsewhere yet? I was at the UPS store yesterday morning, just after they opened, and was still 8-customers deep in the line. Americans return nearly $90 billion worth of gifts every year. According to the National Retail Federation, more than half of all shoppers say they will return or exchange any unwanted gifts within the first month after Christmas. Based on numbers from last year, UPS alone estimates they will process more than 60 million holiday returns. Despite the best intentions of friends and families, some gifts just don’t work out. Returned holiday gifts are a fact of life. Not every gift is going to be a winner.
But did you know that it was actually the raggedy, dirty old shepherds who made the first Christmas return? Luke 2:20 says, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Yes, indeed, it was the unlikely first guests of Jesus’ birth that found themselves with the first Christmas return. It was not a return rooted in disappointment or dissatisfaction. Quite the contrary! It was an invaluable return; one that most assuredly changed their lives forever. It was a return that they didn’t want to send back. They didn't want to exchange for something different. They were excited about it. They wanted to keep it; and they shared it with anyone who would listen. After the shepherd’s early encounter with the heavenly hosts and precious time spent with the holy family, these shepherds would never be the same. They were uplifted. They were rejoicing. They were praising God for all they had heard and seen.
Why so? After all they still had to go back to the same unimpressive jobs. It’s not like they won the lottery, found new wealth, or even a better profession. So why did these men return to the sheep fields with such a newfound sense of jubilation?
As you may expect, the life of a shepherd would never land them on the cover of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Though a necessary work, it wasn’t the most appreciated and certainly not sought after. These shepherds were off the grid and far from most people’s minds, living away from their families outside of town. And this particular group of shepherds, more likely than not, drew the short straw having to work the night shift—risking their lives for a bunch a sheep against thieves and predators for a menial salary. It is unexpected then, yet very much divinely prescribed, that these are the first to hear “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The angel squashed their fear and returned their gaze to the heavens, declaring, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” These poor, stinky shepherds knew immediately that this was not just a gift given for others, but a gift given for them also! Rather than announcing Christ's birth to kings, scholars, or priests, the angels went to "ordinary" persons (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26–30). The message of the gospel is universal, and accessible to all—a fact echoed in the way angels first carried it to everyday laborers in humble circumstances. And because the shepherds received this good news, and found the Gift hand-wrapped by Mary herself, they returned to their lives rejoicing in the love of God shown and given to them.
So, as you are out making your returns this post-Christmas season, may the good news of the Savior born, lead you to return to a life filled with praise and thanksgiving!
“I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.” (Norman Vincent Peale)
“Well, this is one Christmas shepherd who’s going to keep his trusty blanket with him.” (Linus, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Check this out!)
Pastor Steve Vera