Today I’ve been thinking about shepherds. More specifically the shepherds in the Christmas story; you know, the ones confronted by the heavenly host of angels on a hillside just outside Bethlehem announcing the birth of a baby boy? Those shepherds. What of them? Well, not much really. And that’s just it. They were a pretty ordinary bunch of blokes. Not really expectant, maybe in a general sense they believed the scriptures that predicted a messiah, maybe they’d had a couple of conversations about the hope they had, what form this messiah might take. But otherwise an ordinary bunch of guys, doing something they didn’t have to think too much about, they were so used to the daily (or perhaps nightly) rhythm. Not trying to set the world on fire, not exerting themselves ‘for Jesus’, not trying to make ‘stuff’ happen. They were just sitting on a hillside, maybe around a small fire, tending sheep. And all of a sudden they are confronted by the heavenly host of angels and get to be nearly the first people to meet Jesus. Amazing.
In church on Sunday we were asked: Are you expectant? If not, why are you here? And this got me thinking, there is a sense in which we should be expectant when we gather as a community of believers. But I hadn’t arrived at that gathering in an expectant frame of mind. I was just doing the same thing I was used to doing every week for the vast majority of my life: attending a Sunday gathering of my fellow believers. I was being obedient to what I believed God had said about us being a part of that particular community of believers. Not expecting anything to happen that was out of the ordinary, not expecting to have any sense of the presence of the heavenly host! And yet… and yet… It was amazing; there were tears, big fat tears, sobbing, followed by a calmness and a feeling of being lighter. God met me, and it was amazing.
Sometimes we don’t have to be expectant; God can meet us when we’re not trying to make stuff happen; when we’re just doing something because that’s part of our week by week, day by day. And when that happens: it’s amazing.