Joe sat silently, staring at his calloused, weathered hands, lost in thought. “My father was right,” he said with a sigh. “He said I would work with my hands all my life and so far I have.” He sighed again more deeply.
He never dreamed 27 years ago when he took a job as a night security guard that all these years later he would be in that same position, just barely getting by. He was now middle-aged, a time in life when he should have something to show for all his efforts, but he didn’t. He felt stuck in a boring existence, completely dead-ended.
And now the family would be gathering for the annual feast and the pressure was on to spend money they really didn’t have. Rachal, his wife would be negatively comparing their modest status against that of more affluent in-laws.
Sam, his brother-in-law would dominate the dinner conversation boasting about his latest construction work on some elegant residence. Uncle Morey and Aunt Liz would continue their decades long, non-stop bickering and everyone would have to watch Grandpa to make sure he didn’t drink himself into a rage. It was supposed to be a festive time, but to Joe it felt as dull and predictable as his meaningless life.
Does this sound familiar? As we approach the holidays, many people are excited and full of anticipation. Many others struggle with another year of unfulfilled dreams, disappointed hopes, and a deep sense of futility, as they feel stuck on the treadmill of their life.
They may feel lonely, alienated from family, or dreading negative encounters with a former spouse about how to share child visitations over the holidays. Lost opportunities of holidays past overwhelm them with sadness, crowding out the enjoyment of current celebrations.
As Joe sits and contemplates another uneventful, forgettable night like so many thousands he has experienced before, there is no way he can imagine the incredible turn his life is about to take. Joe is not a contemporary, but a shepherd in the Judean hillsides 2000 years ago. His occupation places him at the bottom rung of the social ladder in his culture. Shepherds are considered to be ignorant and not too bright. Their protracted time in the fields and offensive odor means they are banned from many social settings, and their lives are largely isolated and lonely.
But Luke 2:8-11, 13-14 describes what Joe is about to witness: “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of God’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them, ‘Don’t be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior has been born today in Bethlehem.’
Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast number of other angels praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven. Peace and goodwill to men on earth.’”
God chose to make the most significant birth announcement ever to insignificant, lonely men. He focused His love and attention on these forgotten and sad souls, by sharing this great joyful news with them first. They were front and center on His agenda.
It’s 2000 years later, but God has not changed. No matter how forgotten or lonely you may feel, no matter how hopeless your life may seem, God loves you and wants to fill your life with joy. You are front and center with Him, and He longs to give you the greatest gift of all: abundant life in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Come join us this Sunday at 10:30 AM to continue this discussion of God’s greatest gift. My sermon “Joy to the World” is part 2 of our current Christmas series.