Good morning, and Merry Christmas. Today, I will share about the first Christmas and see the fruit of the Spirit of God from the experiences of the shepherds.
Let me start with a question: What fruit of the Spirit do you see from the first Christmas story? For one, we see the joy of the shepherds and the Magis when they first saw Jesus. There is the peace that the angels proclaimed. Today, I will suggest the fruit of goodness (service) and kindness, and the fruit of patience and perseverance.
Let us read Luke 2:8-20, and see what the shepherd did in response to the angels proclaiming the good news.
In our readings from the Lukan text, we see that the shepherds were given two contrasting scenarios. They were challenged to respond in fear or to obey with joy. At first, the shepherds reacted with great fear to the heavenly spectacle shown to them. Then eventually, the angels encouraged these lowly shepherds to respond in joy, as was said: “I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10).
In this story, it is a choice between fear or joy. It seems simple enough that the obvious response should be joy. But we sometimes forget that there are other choices, somewhere in between fear and joy.
Let us look at Matthew chapter 2 and we will see two other choices that other groups of people showed us. The Magis responded with anticipation. They waited for a few years before seeing Jesus. Now, biblical scholars have told us that there is a gap of two or three years between Matthew chapter one and chapter two. This means that at this time, here in chapter two, Jesus was about 3 years old. (Compare Matthew 2:16.) So, this means that the Magis waited with patience and anticipation from the time the star appeared at Jesus birth until this time of their visit to Jerusalem. So, for the Magis, it was not a choice between fear or joy, but a choice to wait, and to patiently wait with faithful anticipation.
Another group of people here in Matthew chapter two is the group of “scribes and priests” mentioned in Matthew 2:4. They responded in knowledge and certainty. They knew where the Messiah was to be borne. And yet they did not go to see the child and worship Jesus, the Child King. Their responses were full of knowledge but lacking in goodness and service. They were certain about the truth of the Messiah and yet they did not move forward and put action to their knowledge. They did not serve the Messiah, but instead followed the evil ruler, Herod. They chose apathy and self serving decisions.
Of course, we know later that the Shepherds went on to obedience and chose joy, as we see in Luke 2:20. Also, the Magis went on to obedience and worship, and chose joy, as we see in Matthew 2:10. What I am trying to say here is that, initially, the choices we face is not as simple as between fear and joy. Our choices could mean a time of waiting. Or it could mean putting good actions and service to our knowledge.
Why am I sharing these different choices from this Christmas story? It is because we need to remind ourselves that our life choice is not just choosing joy, but could also mean choosing patience, when we practice waiting on God, or choosing goodness, when we put action on our biblical knowledge of the truth.
Let me illustrate this with a personal experience. When Christmas comes, many people talk about food and table preparations. It is during these kinds of conversations that I am reminded of my mother’s special Christmas food. When everyone starts enjoying the Christmas meal, I join in the celebration with an empty space in my heart. I wish she was here with my family eating with us, with my children.
I miss my mother. And for some of us who have lost love ones, Christmases can sometimes become challenging. It is not a joyful time. It is a time of waiting for God. It is a time of reflection and patiently waiting and quietly anticipating God’s visit during this Christmas season.
So, this Christmas, go ahead and celebrate with joy. But remember, there are some who are waiting and quietly anticipating God’s visit in their lives. Be patient with them. Also, there are those who are struggling to practice goodness and kindness in their lives. Be gentle with them. Let the fruit of the Spirit of God of joy, peace, love and faithfulness grow abundantly in this Christmas season.
Let us go back to the shepherds’ story. What if the angels stayed on the sky with their dazzling appearance and never came down to the shepherds’ level with a personal invitation? The shepherds probably stayed on being fearful—constantly living in fear.
I am glad one angel took her time to come down to the shepherds’ level and explained to them the good news. And it would have been okay if the angel said, “Have no fear and rejoice. And if you cannot be joyful, wait for God’s visit with patience and perseverance. And always practice goodness. And add kindness to every knowledge you gained from this announcement of the coming Messiah. Glory to God in the highest and to earth peace, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, and love to all humankind.”
(By: Dr. David W. Clemente. 2022 December. Illinois. USA)