December 25, 2016

Luke 2:20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Every part of the Christmas story is very familiar, and this verse too has been set to music that I hear in my head every time I read it. As with all such things, there is the danger of over-familiarity making us numb to the reality of what is written. Here, it is helpful to imagine ourselves in the place of the shepherds. The angelic visitation was remarkable enough, but they had just had direct physical proof that the angel and the angelic chorus hadn’t been been a dream produced by something they had eaten for supper. As the angel had said, the baby lying in a manger was indeed a sign to them that every word the angel had spoken was true. That meant that the baby was the Messiah, and there could hardly have been any more marvelous news than that. They were kept from expecting instant liberation from Rome by the fact that this was indeed a newborn infant, so they would have to wait for Him to grow up, but still this was proof that God had not forgotten His promises to Israel. I can’t help but wonder if any of the younger shepherds later became followers of Jesus, 30 years later. It’s for sure none of them forgot this experience for the rest of their lives.

It is always wonderful when God confirms by physical means something He has told us in our hearts. I gained great peace that the land next door would come to the church legally for us to build a group home there when people showed up at the City Christmas because of the fliers I had taken around a few days earlier. I had even specified the sign myself, saying that even a 1% return on my efforts would be very satisfying, and two people showed up when I had distributed less than 200 fliers. As of this moment the process isn’t complete, but things are moving along in the right direction, and I have great assurance. The whole matter of the group home is a sign that God intends to fulfill the vision He has given us of Omura again being the foremost Christian city in Japan. The fact that attendance at the Christmas Eve service last night was good but not spectacular is an indication that it’s not going to be instantaneous, any more than the angel’s words to the shepherds meant that the Jews would be liberated that year. There is still much faithfulness and dedication called for, but the results are in God’s hands, and so are settled.

Father, thank You for this reminder and assurance. Thank You for guiding me as I drove around to the churches of the city just now to pray for the Christian city that You have already decreed in Your plan. Help me indeed walk by faith and not by sight, so that I may not miss any of the things You have planned for me and for this city, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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