Responding to God; December 25, 2020

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.

This has been one of my favorite verses in the Christmas story for quite a while. I think that started from when I first heard the chorus that was composed to just the first part of this verse: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.” It’s a very catchy tune, and even now it keeps playing over and over in my mind. That’s much nicer than some “ear worms” because in this case there is very good content, even to just those few words. There are two parts to it. The first is that the shepherds responded appropriately to the confirmation of their angelic visitation. Who wouldn’t be happy to confirm that your Savior has just been born?! However, the second part just came to me now as I was thinking about it: they went back to their normal activities and responsibilities. In other words, they weren’t so hyped up over what had happened that they forgot about their sheep, despite the Christmas carol that says, “Shepherds shake off your drowsy sleep; rise and leave your silly sheep.” I have long thought that they left one person, at least, behind when they went off searching for the baby in a manger that the angel had told them about. Here we see that all of them went back to their shepherd duties, even as excited as they doubtless were. When God gives us special experiences we are to rejoice, and we are certainly to make whatever changes in our lifestyle God indicates, but at the same time we aren’t to be irresponsible. I have known of people who abandoned their family to run off and “be a missionary,” leading to tragedy, when God wanted them to represent Him both to their family and to people who needed to hear the Gospel. It is rarely an either/or situation; God is big enough for both/and, and we need to believe it. Like the shepherds, we need to glorify and praise God and return to our responsibilities.

God has been very merciful to me by signaling major changes not just to me but also to others involved, particularly my wife. That started with our engagement. I had first proposed to her over the telephone, and got dead silence in return. However, two days later, out of the blue, she said, “Ask me again,” and I immediately knew what she meant. When it came to our coming to Japan as a family for the first time, to this day neither of us remembers which one turned to the other and said, “Do you want to sell the mobile home and move to Japan?” We were in total unity, even though I had a good, steady job that I loved. That’s not to say that I haven’t made plenty of decisions and changes without proper consultation, even recently, but it is to say that God is bigger than my stupidity. Last night we had a very good Christmas Eve service, and today we have a very relaxed schedule. I was able to fill the baptistry after the service last night and get it started heating for the baptism Sunday. We had two non-Christians present last night, and they seem to have been touched by what they experienced. And all of that is to say that God is God, and that’s very good indeed, regardless of my denseness and weaknesses.

Father, thank You for Your truly amazing grace, as expressed in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago as well as right here right now. May I respond rightly to Your grace even as the shepherds did, 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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