Last week’s Advent reading ended with a bunch of shepherds staring at the sky and hearing the angels sing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” In the dark of night, the glory of the Lord shone all around the shepherds. They had no idea what was happening and they were terrified. And yet, the angels’ joyful news that the Messiah, the Savior, had been born in Bethlehem propelled them past their fear and got them moving.
For this third week of Advent, beginning on Sunday, December 11, take a moment to light three candles on your wreath. The first candle (which is getting pretty low by now, right?) is the Hope candle. The second is the Joy candle. For this third week, light the Peace candle. Read aloud Luke 2:15-20.
If the Discovery Channel show “Dirty Jobs” had existed around the time Jesus was born, it would have featured shepherds in one of the first episodes. People in Jesus’ day viewed shepherds and their work as unclean and uncivilized. So the fact that God chose them to hear the heavenly announcement of Jesus’ birth is surprising.
The shepherds didn’t only hear the good news, though. God also chose them to be the first ones to go and tell the good news. Once they overcame their fear, the shepherds went to Bethlehem. They explained to others what the big deal was about this baby in the manger. They shared the hope, joy, and peace that would be possible for everyone now that Jesus was born. The long-awaited Savior had come.
Try to imagine the shepherds bursting into the stable. The sight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus making them dance around and pump their fists in the air. “Yes, we found him!” Then the shepherds “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed.”
Think back to Mary’s amazement at what the angel Gabriel told her: she would bear a child who would be the Son of God. The shepherds were similarly startled by what the angels told them: the Son of God had been born in Bethlehem. Now the shepherds keep passing on the joyful news. They may be unlikely messengers, but they know what they’re talking about. God has come in the flesh to live among us.
As you wait for God’s Son to be born, take a look at your Advent wreath. The light is growing brighter. Our excitement for his birth is building, even as our hearts are filled with God’s peace. It doesn’t matter how many tasks you’ve checked off your Christmas to-do list. It’s ok if you’re feeling uncertain about what’s in store in the new year. You have nothing to worry about, nothing to be afraid of. God is taking care of that which matters most. The Savior is coming soon.
After reading the passage from Luke 2 and reflecting on it together, talk about any or all of these questions for a few minutes:
- When is a time that God has helped you move past your fear and get moving, as the shepherds got going in a hurry toward Bethlehem?
- What part of the story of Jesus, from his birth to his resurrection, brings you the most peace?
- Where are places in your life, work, school, or community that are in need of peace? How can you be an instrument of God’s peace in those places?
After some time of conversation and reflection, sing this verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” together. “Emmanuel” is another name for Jesus. It means, “God is with us.”
- O come, O King of nations, come. O Cornerstone that binds in one: refresh the hearts that long for you; restore the broken, make us new. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.
At the end of your Advent wreath lighting, pray and include petitions for people or places in need of peace. You can use this prayer to get started. Children can read it and lead your family in prayer or repeat it after you.
- Dear God, we are waiting for Jesus to be born. Fill our hearts with your peace as we keep watch by the manger. Help us share your peace and love with others. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen
Advent Everyday: Each night, at dinner or whenever you can fit it in, light three candles of your wreath, the Hope, Joy, and Peace candles. Throughout the week, have some family reading time with a board book or other children’s book that tells the Christmas story. Ask your child questions about what she sees in the pictures and what she thinks will happen next. Point out the baby Jesus and share memories with your child from when he was a baby. Help your children sense the amazement and joy that the shepherds felt when they saw him for the first time. Talk about the hopes they had for Jesus because of what the angels told them. Finish your reading time with a hug. Let your children know how much you love them and how much God loves them.
Paige Evers is a Lutheran pastor, a mom to two young children, and the wife of a Lutheran pastor. Looking back, she is thankful that God got her past the fear of the unknown and got her moving to Japan, Minnesota, and Delaware, among other places.