Several weeks ago our family was blessed with a much needed vacation. Our destination was, what I called, “The Middle of Nowhere,” Tennessee. It was a glorious place, a place where cell phones, WiFi, and GPS were obsolete and unavailable. I imagine for some, that may seem like a frightening place, but for my husband and I, it was exactly what we had hoped for.
With the end of our first day approaching, we sat staring out at the lake as the remaining light of day faded away. That evening, there was no moon. In short time we were left in complete and total darkness. One of my kids exclaimed, “Whoa! This is dark.” He was right. I had never experienced darkness like this, and I’ve been camping, in a tent, in the woods before. I have to admit that it was a bit unnerving for me at first. As we stood there silent, it dawned on me how still it was. How peaceful. It was just the five of us, away from the hub-bub, the busyness, the distractions…away from everything.
With the kids in bed, I returned to the deck. By now, the sky was filled with a host of flickering stars. They seemed to dot every corner of the sky. We don’t see stars like this back home. There’s too much going on: street lights, car lights, businesses lit up. They all prevent us from seeing the sky clearly at night. It’s only when you remove yourself, get away, distance yourself from the distraction, that you are able to see clearly. That thought hit home. I suppose the same principal applies to life.
Each evening I found myself drawn to the back deck overlooking the lake. The stillness was refreshing. I’m not just referring to the stillness of the back woods of Tennessee, but also to the stillness in me. I imagine that you and I are a lot alike. Your list of responsibilities, places to go, and things to do is long, and your time seems so very short. It’s hard to be still. What I discovered in the stillness of those evenings was that I was able to hear so much clearer. I heard the sounds of the nighttime owl, the subtle splash of the water, the rustling of the trees, but most importantly, I heard the still, small voice of the Lord. That’s what really drew me back outside each night. What would the Lord say? What would He impress on my heart? What would He show me? Quiet time took on a whole new meaning for me.
I soon discovered that with stillness comes thought, and with thought comes reflection, and with reflection comes conviction. Maybe that’s why more of us are not still because when we really are still, the Lord may tell us and show us things that need to change. Busyness tends to prevent us from reaching those much needed areas of reflection and conviction.
As our vacation came to an end, I enjoyed one final night outside. The brilliant stars brought my thoughts back to Bethlehem, to the night unlike any other, the night of The Savior’s birth. The shepherds sat out in darkness, in the fields, away from the lights and busyness of the city. I imagine it was quiet and peaceful. I imagine the shepherds may have been still. I imagine they were able to hear the sounds of the night.
The scene in the city of Bethlehem was likely different. Others were milling about the city, a city filled to the brim with people waiting to partake in the census. There were too many people and not enough rooms. They were likely looking for lodging, seeking out food, and hoping for rest. I bet Bethlehem was bathed in a flurry of activity and noise. Yet, all the while, the city lay unaware of the events that would unfold that night. A man and woman would make their way into town, seeking shelter, anticipating a birth like no other, the birth of The Savior, Jesus.
I find it interesting whom the Lord chose to announce this glorious birth to: the shepherds. The shepherds of the day were laborers, not highly regarded. Yet, in the quietness of the night, in their stillness, they would hear the Lord’s grand announcement of His Son’s birth. They arose and went to find this Babe. After meeting their Savior face to face, they went and shared this miraculous news. The Bible tells us that,
“…all who heard it wondered at the things which were told to them by the shepherds.” Luke 2:18
I often think about how many people missed Jesus that first Christmas.
Oh, how easy it would be to miss Jesus this Christmas. How easy it is for Him to be pushed behind the presents, cards, cookies, gatherings, and lights.
I want to encourage you to be still in these days leading up to Christmas. Take away the distractions so that you can see the true beauty of Christmas, the beauty of Christ and His great love for us. He humbled Himself, coming to earth as a Babe, fully God, yet walking among men. He came for one purpose, to be the atonement for sin, to die for you, for me.
“…Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 This was the first census that took place whilea Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 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.