"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified." Luke.2:8-9.
Last week I stood in a shopping mall and watched the crowds pushing and shoving to make that final purchase for Christmas. I had all but given up trying to get a parking spot. There were just too many people willing to push in - even the ones with the fishes and doves on the back of the car had gotten into the spirit of Christmas. I parked out in the street a kilometer from the shopping area, it was safer out there. I think the faces of the pensioners said it all; fear. There was too much energy and speed in it all. The piped Christmas carols, the ringing cash registers, the busy crowd and the bearded red giant, heralded the season to be jolly. It was Christmas again. Like Bethlehem all those years ago - a dark night and no room in the inn.
The prophet Isaiah says in Chapter 9, verse 2, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; for to us a child is born, to us a son is given." The gospel of John puts it this way, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it", John.1:4-5. Light shining in darkness, and very few understand. Maybe that's the purpose of the partying and the noise, the pushing and the shoving, the buying and the selling. It hides the loneliness, the lostness, the darkness of life; it leaves no room to think, just as there was no room in the inn.
In one of our impersonal suburbs there is a widow. She has three children. Her husband, when he was alive, left her for a younger woman. Her daughter was fourteen years old at the time, and dad successfully convinced her that mum was to blame. The daughter has only now started to talk to her mum some five years later. This lady still thinks that she was to blame, why else would her husband leave her. All the noise of the silly season can't hide the darkness she feels within.
"And they were terrified." Darkness and fear within - loneliness, guilt, shame, sadness, depression, hurt........ The trouble is that all the jolly Santas ever born can't lift the darkness of our inner selves. All the Christmas dinners and parties, giving and receiving, none of it can take away that inner darkness that haunts us at this time of the year.
The streets of Bethlehem were crowded, there was no room in the inn and the surrounding hills were clothed in darkness. And "an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But, the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'"