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 is obviously a very familiar verse, and a catchy little chorus has been made of just the first half of it. I’ve always liked it, for two reasons. The first is the mental image of the shepherds, walking along singing, probably punctuated with intermittent exclamations of things like “Glory!” “Praise God!” “Hallelujah!” In all that they probably tried to replicate the song the angels had sung to them. That is a very joyous and glorious scene to me. The second thing is very simply that they returned, they went back to what they had been doing when the angel appeared to them. Life didn’t stop, and it doesn’t stop for any event, no matter how dramatic, triumphant, or even tragic. At the same time, the shepherds themselves were forever changed by their experience. From that point they never doubted the existence of God, angels, or the supernatural in general. We all have experiences that mark turning points in our lives. Some of those are good and pleasant, some may be tragic or even horrific. The question is never whether we will have such experiences, since we are hardly ever in control of them, but how we will respond to them when they occur. Jesus famously cautioned us about the negative side of that. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) God never allows anything in our lives that He can’t use for good. (Romans 8:28) However, if we respond wrongly, turning away from God instead of toward Him, the results are indeed tragic. Abuse is a good case in point. Particularly when the abuser is a “religious” figure, the abused person runs a high risk of rejecting God, but Jesus said that the fate of such abusers is more than horrible. (Luke 17:1-2) However, some abused people manage to come through their experience gloriously strengthened, knowing that by the grace of God they can get through anything. Conversely, some people are ruined by dramatic events that, on the face of it, would seem good, like winning the lottery or otherwise coming suddenly into a great deal of money, and some people make good use of it and are genuinely blessed, as well as blessing others. It’s all a matter of focus and internal values and priorities.
I haven’t had hugely tragic or triumphant events in my life, but I have certainly had experiences that have been transforming. Meeting, courting, and marrying my wife was certainly dramatic, and I am deeply grateful. Having God speak to me so clearly that it might as well have been audible is something I’ll never forget. Having Him show me a mirror so that I got a glimpse of the blackness of my soul absolutely devastated me at the time, but it was a moment of the deepest mercy and love, and it certainly changed me. At this point in my life I realize that all the events of my life are no more than bumps and wiggles in my “lifeline,” so to speak. The “big event” is when I stand before my Lord, set free from all that has held me back, so that I may have complete fellowship with Him. I am deeply grateful for all He has brought me through, and I’m sure he has more blessings planned, but my anticipation of that climactic day continues to grow. As the song says, “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see.” Those I leave behind will mourn, but I will rejoice beyond words to express.
Father, thank You for all You bring us through. Help me indeed respond to everything as You desire and intend, so that Your purposes may be fulfilled on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!