It’s Monday morning and it’s cold. The car needs warming up, the windshield scraping. I stop at D&Ds for a cup of decaf, spill half of it on my coat. My cold clumsy hands unlock the office door, turn on the lights, my computer… another day.
Is this what it was like for the shepherds? Another cold night on the same old hillside with chapped hands and the bleating of sheep? Baaa… humbug.
Then the veil is pulled back. It starts with one angel. Then the glory of the Lord. And then terror – and good news – just a breath apart! And then that whole blessed heavenly host, glorifying and praising God.
So the shepherds decided to check it out for themselves. Of course. Would you go back to the office after being confronted by an army of angels? The sheep can wait. That is a no-brainer.
They ran down the hill into the town, found the baby in the manger exactly as the angel said they would, then came back glorifying and praising God. He came! Emmanuel – God with us! Nothing will ever be the same!
I wonder what that next night was like, or the next 50 nights, or the night five years from then. Another cold night on the same old hillside? Same bleating sheep, same chapped hands? Or did that glimpse behind the veil change their lives forever?
We see through a glass dimly; then we shall see face to face. The behind-the-veil evidence of Emmanuel is too much for us to bear – so he gives us glimpses, a “dim glass” view. That’s all we can really handle: the occasional realization that we were just spared to live another day; the miraculous healing of a loved one; the saving words of a contrite heart. If we only really knew about Emmanuel; if we could only see how God is with us every moment, how He gives us each breath, marks our every step, knows our every thought. Could we bear it?
Would it make a difference next Monday morning when I scrape my windshield and spill coffee on myself yet again? Maybe just knowing that I can’t possibly know all that is behind the veil, I will simply give thanks that He provided me with safe transportation, that I have spare change to spend on coffee, that I have a job.
There is so much we cannot know about Emmanuel, God with us. But we do know that God is Love. He has given us more than just a glimpse of Love. He made an unmistakable statement as He splashed it across the night sky, then took on human flesh and laid Himself down in a manger. He became Love for us. In the face of all that is tragic and mundane and distracting, we can know for sure that we have Love with us. And that can’t help but change us. Forever.
[First written and read in December 2005.]